New Classical Tracks®

Violinist Lara St. John continues her fight for women

Violinist Lara St. John.Andrew Ousley (Unison Media)


New Classical Tracks - Lara St. John (Extended)

36:50

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January 04, 2023

Lara St. John ♀she/her/hers (Ancalagon Records)

New Classical Tracks - Lara St. John


When Lara St. John was 14 and studying at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, she was abused by her violin teacher. When she reported it, nothing happened. That’s why she decided to reveal her story to the public.

“Finally, I decided the only way to do it right was to scream from the rooftops,” St. John said. “I've been doing that since the 5,000-word article came out in July 2019 in the Philadelphia Inquirer.”

Her fight for women in the world of classical music continues with a new recording that lifts the voices of a dozen women composers called ♀she/her/hers.

“For years I've been trying to include music by women in programs. There's so much great stuff out there for solo violin I decided to make a recording of it,” she said. “For example, Sophie-Carmen Eckhardt-Gramatté, was a violinist, pianist and terrific composer. Nobody outside of Manitoba has ever heard of her. So I wanted to change that.”

Can you talk about some of the extended techniques used on the album?

“Milica Paranosic’s Bubamara is the first track. She and I have been friends for years and originally bonded over our love of Serbian Roma music. So she wrote this one for me and used traditional Macedonia rhythms. At one point, she said, ‘I want this effect here. How can you do this and can you do it? Can you do it with foot bells? Can you do it with this?’ I just figured out different ways of being able to play a theme. It's doing pizzicato with the left hand, which is kind of like accompanying oneself.

“Laurie Anderson gave me carte blanche, basically. I set her Statue of Liberty for solo violin and Tibetan bells. The bowls make those beautiful sounds that go right into your solar plexus. I don't know how Tibetans do that, but it's an incredible sound.

“I've been a big fan of Valerie Coleman for 20 years, and she wrote a gorgeous flute piece, which I figured out how to perform on violin. I can even do flutter tongue. I have the sound that I want to achieve in my head, and then I figure out how to do it.”

Tell me about Ada Caplan's Whitewashed.

She was 14 when she wrote to me and said, ‘Hi, I don't know you, but I'm a composer and a violinist. I wrote a piece I want to present to a competition at my school. I wrote it a little bit too hard, and I don't sound good. Can you record it for me?’

“She's from Philadelphia. Of course, a 14-year-old from Philadelphia was a little more fateful than a coincidence. One of her composition teachers is Melissa Dunphy, who also wrote a great piece for solo violin called Kommós, which is also on the album. The whole thing just came together.”

To hear the rest of my conversation, click on the extended interview above, or download the extended podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.

Resources

Lara St. John — ♀she/her/hers (Lara St. John Store)

Lara St. John — ♀she/her/hers (Amazon)

Lara St. John (official site)