Spreading her wings: Nevada County fiddler Emilie Rose making her mark at Berklee
A nurturing arts environment, a supportive community and, at least in small part a plug in The Union, helped propel Emilie Rose to Berklee College of Music in Boston.
Emilie Rose — who has been playing the fiddle since third grade — was featured in the newspaper when, at age 12, she won a $500 grant from Twin Cities Concert Association to buy her own instrument.
Up to that point, the girl had been using fiddles that belonged to Nevada City School of the Arts. But, she explained, she needed a performance-quality violin so she could win a scholarship for college.
And, Emilie Rose told The Union, she knew where she wanted to go: Berklee College of Music.
After the article appeared, Berklee got wind of it and reached out to the seventh-grader.
“They found out about me and wrote me, something along the lines of, ‘We hope to see you at Berklee one day,’” she said. “I was very thrilled.”
Emilie Rose gives a lot of credit to Nevada City School of the Arts and its “very strong” traditional music program for her love of music.
“I kind of knew from when I started in third grade that I wanted to do that for the foreseeable future,” she said.
Emilie Rose began attending Alasdair Fraser’s Sierra Fiddle Camp at age 9 and started a band in the eighth grade, The String Sisters, with whom she performed through high school.
“I owe everything, all of my music to Nevada County, because there is such a thriving music community here,” Emilie mused. “Nevada City School of the Arts really nourished and planted the seed for me, for doing this for the rest of my life.”
It was at Fraser’s fiddle camp that she met instructors Hanneke Cassel and Laura Cortese, who both went to Berklee and sparked her interest in the college.
“They laid a foundation for fiddle players to go to Berklee,” she said, explaining that at the time it was known mostly as a school for jazz musicians.
Berklee now has a thriving American roots program, Emilie Rose said, “with students like me who (have) played fiddle forever and wanted to take it further, who are excited about what we’re doing, playing traditional music.”
Set for semester in Spain
Emilie Rose is now in her second year at Berklee, after taking a gap year.
And that fiddle?
“I was just playing it,” she said, laughing. “I love it.”
Emilie Rose said she spent a year looking, trying out many instruments.
Then, she said, she fell for a circa 1912 fiddle that had been repaired by a luthier in the San Francisco Scottish Fiddlers, a club she belonged to through middle school and high school.
“He brought it to concert rehearsal one day, and I played it and fell in love with it,” she said.
These days, she carries that fiddle around Boston on her back, in a bright yellow case plastered with stickers.
“I’ve been playing a lot of old-time and bluegrass music,” she said, “I lead Celtic pub sessions. It’s fun — we just sit around in the pub and we have a session in the corner.”
She just returned from an intensive week-long camp hosted by the Savannah Music Festival, an acoustic music seminar with just 16 participants, all younger than 22.
Each participant would present a tune they wrote to a small group, who learn it and then work on an arrangement together — all in a period of just two hours — before presenting it to the other seminar participants.
“It was awesome,” she said with a laugh. “The point was to have us grow so much during that week.”
Emilie Rose has been writing music as long as she has been playing, saying, “It goes hand in hand for me,”
“I consider myself to be a tradition-carrier,” she explained. “I know all of these ancient melodies, that most people don’t really know. I think it’s really important to write new music inspired by the old music, to get it out there.”
Next fall, Emilie Rose will spend the semester studying at Berklee’s campus in Valencia, Spain.
“I do plan in the future to spread my music as far and wide as I can — this will be a very good first step,” she said.
The two years she has spent so far at Berklee are “absolutely” due to the financial support she has received from the community and from scholarships, she said, including a recent $1,500 Music Matters Grant from In Concert Sierra — the same organization, with a new name, that gave her than first $500 award.
“It helps, every little bit,” she said.
Emilie Rose launched a “very successful” GoFundMe campaign in 2016 when she was admitted to Berklee, raising more than $11,000 largely with support from Nevada County.
“That helped pay most of what I needed, in addition to my scholarships, to make my first year happen,” she said, admitting she started at Berklee more than a little unsure of how long she would be able to stay.
“I didn’t know how long I was going to be able to pay for it,” she said, adding she hopes to finish in three years.
“This summer will be the first break from school since I started in Fall 2016,” Emilie Rose said. “It’s been really fun, though. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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