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jennifer curtis violinistJennifer Curtis.
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deborah miller headshotDeborah Miller.
I love Johnny’s Gone Fishing in Carrboro and have since the early ’70s, when I used to buy bait there on the way out to University Lake. I like to see my old favorite places morph into my new favorite places. That’s one of my definitions of sustainability.
So how did a Juilliard-trained, award-winning virtuoso violinist who has graced the stages of Carnegie Hall end up playing on Johnny’s patio? That violinist, Jennifer Curtis, is a native Chapel Hillian, but I’ll bet you knew that’s where I was going with this. Her reviews, yes, even one in The New York Times, include words like gutsy, passionate, fiery, curious, intelligent, deft and spirited. She’s also a “sound healer” but that might have to be a story for another day.
Was she always that full of talent? I asked her mama, Liz Curtis Holm, who knows music. After all she’s worked at the Cradle forever. “I knew right away,” Liz says in a way only a mother can. “The joy exuding from her was always musical. She wanted to play all kinds of instruments. The violin began at age 3, via Suzuki; she zoomed through volumes 1-10 years ahead of her peers. I have a picture of her playing drums when she was 4. She was pretty obsessed, in a beautiful way.”
Splitting her time between New York City and Chapel Hill, Jennifer recently joined the faculty of the music department at UNC, taking over the position from her mentor, Richard Luby, who died suddenly in January.
She’s also actively playing in the area. In a synergistic contrast that somehow makes total sense, one night she’s playing fiddle at The Kraken out on N.C. 54 with singer/guitarist Ella Bertram (Bertram is a cousin of Squirrel Nut Zipper Katharine Whalen and daughter of Townsend Bertram owners Audrey Townsend and Scott Bertram); the next morning it’s classical violin at Johnny’s. “What better could I be doing on a Sunday morning than playing Bach to a handful of people from all demographics listening with total silence?” Jennifer says.
Nothing that I can imagine, Jennifer. TW
JENNIFER'S UPCOMING PERFORMANCES
AUG. 17 AND 18: LINCOLN CENTER, NEW YORK CITY
Mostly Mozart Festival, 7:30pm – performing as violinist and mandolinist in two world premieres composed especially for her. Commissioned by International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE). Joined by Tyshawn Sorey on drums and Phyllis Chen on toy piano.
AUG. 30 AND SEPT. 8: FOREST THEATRE
Opening for Paperhand Puppet Intervention, 6:20pm
SEPT. 7: WON BUDDHISM TEMPLE
Benefit concert, 7pm
SEPT. 28: HILL HALL
Solo Concert, 8pm
Simmer2Sizzle (www.simmer2sizzle.com) blogger Deborah Miller is here, there and everywhere. If it's musical, visual or entertaining, this Chapel Hill native is likely to be close by and talking about it. Each weeke she lets you know what to see and do in the area.