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Laurel Thomsen has always had an ear for song, and by six, music possessed her. Concerned, she told her mother that a recording she had listened to wouldn’t stop playing in her mind. “Don’t worry, that happens to me too,” her mother reassured her. When Laurel explained that it wasn’t just a little ditty but a whole orchestra, note for note, her mother said that sounded like quite a gift. Encouraged, Laurel made it a practice to get a song a day stuck in her head. After that, there was no turning back. As her “Music Bug” lyrics put it, “Catch the bug you must succumb, no going back where you came from.”

Following a range of childhood musical experiences, Laurel asked for violin lessons at age nine and immediately took flight. Since 1998 the internationally touring violinist and violist, educator, composer, podcaster, and writer has enjoyed performing, teaching, and studio recording across a variety of genres with ensembles ranging from symphony orchestras to bands and singer-songwriters. Classically trained, Laurel enjoys diving into the creative unknown, and from interpreting a Classical masterwork, to arranging a fiddle tune, or composing string parts for a singer-songwriter, figuring out how to make the notes come to life.

Born and raised in Monterey, California and now based in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Laurel grew up performing with diverse ensembles, bands, and singer-songwriters around the California Central Coast, including The White Album Ensemble, the Camerata Singers, the Western Stage, the Monterey Opera Association, Peace Train, Trusting Lucy, Linda Arceo, the Santa Cruz World Orchestra and Choir, Sweetfire, Bright Side Band, Grumbling Ginger, and Mountain Folk, and is frequently sought for her ability to add depth and emotion, flare and fun to all types of music. Dubbed the “Hookmeister” by one San Francisco Bay Area recording engineer, her knack for creating infectious melodies has saved more than one client’s song from the chopping block. Canada's music magazine, Penguin Eggs, noted her “fascinating undertones and range” and “judicious violin” arrangements, a credit to the care she takes in her desire to serve the music and elevate every project she’s a part of. Cashbox Magazine remarked on her "deft, elegant violin" arrangements on her 2022 "After the Fire" album.
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With a rich and expressive violin tone and an interpretive style that can both rock a solo or add backup texture and groove, Laurel’s main project since 2013 has been in partner with prolific Canadian songwriter Dan Frechette, as the original Roots-Folk duo Dan Frechette & Laurel Thomsen. The collaboration has enjoyed five album releases, their third album making top ten on the Canadian Campus Roots Charts for 2016. They have performed over 1000 concerts throughout North America and Europe, including the definitive Winnipeg Folk Festival, BBC radio in Liverpool, California’s treasured Kate Wolf Folk Festival, and opening up for the likes of the Wailin’ Jennys and Lawrence Juber. The duo has given Laurel the opportunity to not only showcase her versatility on the violin, improvising and arranging across a wide variety of genres, including Classical, Celtic, Bluegrass, Blues, Ragtime, Gypsy Jazz, Folk-Rock, and Roots, but to also share her own compositions, songwriting, and as described by Dennis Taylor of the Monterey Herald, her “remarkable singing voice.”

Laurel has enjoyed a thriving violin, viola, and fiddle private lessons studio on the California Central Coast since 1996 and as reported by the New York Times, beginning in 2009 she was one of the first music teachers to embrace teaching online via Skype - and later, FaceTime and Zoom too - allowing her to maintain her lessons studio in spite of a busy touring schedule and to connect with ambitious students around the world.
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Passionate about not only sharing her music on stage and in the studio, but helping the broader string community, Laurel is the creator and host of the popular Violin Geek Podcast and Blog, a regular contributor of string technique and practice articles for Strings magazine, author of Improve Your Bowing Technique, and Improve Your Violin and Viola Technique, and created and published the world’s first comprehensive online vibrato course, Complete Vibrato Mastery.

Laurel thrives on teamwork and collaboration. Whether as part of a duo, a six-piece band, or an orchestra, she transitions seamlessly from a soloistic approach to a supporting role. Beyond her musical talents, Laurel's poise and professionalism have earned her consistent respect and admiration from musical collaborators, audiences, and students. Her elegant stage presence and sharp musical executions combine with a delightful charm that readily appeals to all generations.

When she's not playing or teaching music, Laurel enjoys hiking to the tops of mountains and observing the creatures she comes across in their natural environment, learning languages and exploring foreign cultures, savoring tea and conversation with friends, making tacos and experiencing ethnic flavors, and researching how the body and mind work, and could work more effectively and efficiently.

Laurel's violin and viola playing style are praised not only for her masterful technique and sweet tone, but for her extraordinary ability to convey emotion. Laurel hears music as a story, and when she plays or sings, vivid imagery and deep feeling move her beyond the auditory. She experiences music as a form of dynamic communication with her collaborators, her audience, her students, and her inner self.

A few of my favorite things, music related and otherwise:

Laurel Thomsen Violin, Viola, Vocals Performance, Instruction, Recording Based in Santa Cruz, California

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Photography by Michelle Magdalena
Skype: laurelthomsen

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