Born: August 6, 1966 Primary Instrument: Violin
Regina Carter combines exciting technical proficiency and improvisation with an aggressive approach to her instrument, adding multicultural influence. Her playing is melodic, yet percussive. People are only used to hearing violin in European classical music or country music, says Carter, and so we get stuck in this idea that this is what a violin is supposed to do. And it's such a precious instrument and such a delicate instrument... That's what people think: it's such a small, delicate little thing. Even sometimes I play with classical players in a quartet and part of the piece might call to use the back of the bow, the wood, to hit on the string to get a percussive effect or to get a different sound, and they'll say, 'I'm not going to bang on my instrument like that. This violin cost way too much money.'They don't think of it as another way of playing the instrument. They don't really want to go beyond what we think of; so even the musicians themselves sometimes are stuck into those old ways of thinking.
*I think a lot of people look at the violin and they get a little nervous, Carter notes. They have a stereotype of what the violin is - very high, kind of shrill-sounding with long notes, and a lot of vibrato. It doesn't have to be that at all, it can be a very fiery persuasive instrument and that's how I like to use it. I don't think of the music trying to fit the violin, she continues, or how to make the violin work in this music. For me, it just does. I'm not playing it as a violin. Instead of being so melodic, which I can be, I tend to use the instrument in more of a rhythmic way, using vamp rhythms or a lot of syncopated rhythms, approaching it more like a horn player does. So, I don't feel that I have a lot of limitations - I feel like I can do anything.
I followed a more non-traditional route. I initially learned by ear, then later learned to read, then learned theory. I think that kind of experience has freed my playing up a lot more, so I'm not stuck on the page. A lot of people are afraid not to have a piece of music in front of them. I knew I wanted to play improvised music after I heard a record by violinist Jean-Luc Ponty. Ever since then, I've been dreaming of my first solo project.
My goal is to continue to write and play music that's true to me, and if I remember that always, no one can take that away from me.