If in the past year or so, you’ve caught acts like Broomdust Caravan, The Santa Fe Revue or John Kurzweg (just to name a few), chances are you’ve noticed violin/viola/fiddle player Karina Wilson. A longtime master of strings, Wilson seems to be the go-to gal for any fiddle needs of late. This could be due to her classically trained precision, it could be her well-rounded willingness to experiment and improvise with the best of ‘em, or it could just be that Wilson is a natural talent who adds the kind of dimension to music that you hadn’t even realized it needed.
“I like to keep it interesting and opportunities just seem to come to me,” says Wilson of her seeming everywhere-ness. “Mostly I just want to perform with good players and to play music that is inspiring and exciting and new and different.”
And it’s in this open-minded approach that Wilson landed her first serious gig a few years back with Joe West for a series of performances.
“A friend of mine had introduced me to Joe and we started to run into each other a lot, and then one day when I was at the Cowgirl, he was setting up for Sunday brunch and he asked me to sit in,” she says. “From there I guess things have just grown by word of mouth.”
Indeed they have, as it seems musicians of all styles have flocked to Wilson time and time again.
“Karina was a great musician with outrageously charismatic stage presence when I first met her a couple years ago, and that would have been enough,” says Johny Broomdust of country-rock band Broomdust Caravan. “But she just keeps getting better and better…her improvisation, her timing, the way she draws in the crowd now borders on genius.”
She’s come a long way from the young girl who discovered the violin after her grandmother gave it to her father.
“We had this violin with us for years, but nobody had played it in years and nobody could tell me what it sounded like,” Wilson says. “At the time there was a violin shop near our house [in Albuqeruque], and my mom walked me down and got me a little violin…it never occurred to me not to play it.”
From there, Wilson studied the Suzuki method, a century-old training regimen developed by 20th century violin master Shin’ichi Suzuki. After completing just about half of the daunting 10-book curriculum, she went on to study with Santa Fe teacher Ann Martin and Albuquerque’s Kathy Jarrett. At 18, Wilson attended the Rocky Mountain Fiddle Camp, an experience she described as a turning point in her musical education.
“It was a great way to hang out with other people my age who played traditional music,” she says. “My playing went from dry and methodical to more expressive.”
Lately, Wilson has been performing more and more fiddle, which she says is the term used for the bulk of violin music that falls outside the realm of classical.
“Some people say [the fiddle] is more of a self-taught thing, but either way there’s a bit more freedom in that, and I particularly like playing in those freer forms,” Wilson says. “I find it’s more organic and I don’t have to play to tradition, but I also appreciate and respect those people who can and do play in a more structured form.”
In addition to her copious amounts of session work, Wilson is also penning her own as-of-yet unheard instrumental songs and she recently traveled to Seattle to record an album with English country music trio Revery.
“It sounds like what you might think would go along with a dance for Pride and Prejudice,” she says with a laugh. “Very flowy and very proper.”
In the meantime, all y’all can catch Wilson performing rock tunes alongside local musician/producer John Kurzweg on Aug. 6 and fiddlin’ like a maniac with Broomdust Caravan at their upcoming Bandstand show on Aug. 12. Trust me on this—you’ll be impressed.
JOHN KURZWEG FEAT. KARINA WILSON
8 pm Wednesday, Aug. 6. No cover
El Farol, 808 Canyon Road,
BROOMDUST CARAVAN FEAT. KARINA WILSON
6 pm Tuesday, Aug. 12. No cover
Santa Fe Bandstand,