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

Following a range of childhood music activities and experiences, I asked for violin lessons at age nine and immediately took flight. Since 1998 I have built amy independent career as an internationally touring violinist and violist, educator, composer, podcaster, and writer, enjoying performing, teaching, and studio recording across a variety of genres with ensembles ranging from symphony orchestras to bands and singer-songwriters. Classically trained, I enjoy 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, I 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 am frequently sought out for my 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, my knack for creating infectious melodies has saved more than one client’s song from the chopping block. Canada's music magazine, Penguin Eggs, noted my “fascinating undertones and range” and “judicious violin” arrangements, a credit to the care I strive for in my desire to serve the music and elevate every project I'm a part of. Cashbox Magazine remarked on my "deft, elegant violin" arrangements on her 2022 "After the Fire" album.
Dan Frechette & Laurel Thomsen
With a rich and expressive violin tone and an interpretive style that can both rock a solo or add backup texture and groove, my 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, our third album making top ten on the Canadian Campus Roots Charts for 2016. We have performed over a thousand 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. This duo has given me the opportunity to not only showcase my 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 my own compositions, songwriting, and what Dennis Taylor of the Monterey Herald described as my “remarkable singing voice.”

I have also 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, in 2009 I became one of the first music teachers to embrace teaching online violin and viola lessons via Skype - and later, FaceTime and Zoom too - allowing me to maintain my lessons studio in spite of my busy touring schedule and to connect with ambitious students around the world.
Laurel Thomsen and her violin through a window
Passionate about not only sharing my music on stage and in the studio, but helping the broader string community, I am the creator and host of the popular Violin Geek Podcast and Blog, a regular contributor of string technique and practice articles for Strings and Fiddler magazines, author of Improve Your Bowing Technique, and Improve Your Violin and Viola Technique, and I created and published the world’s first comprehensive online vibrato course, Complete Vibrato Mastery.

When I'm not playing or teaching music, I enjoy hiking to the tops of mountains and observing the creatures I come 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.

I thrive on teamwork and collaboration. Whether as part of a duo, a six-piece band, or an orchestra, I have learned to transition seamlessly from a soloistic approach to a supporting role. And as technical as music and playing the violin or viola can be, my goal as an artist is to surpass convey a rich landscape of emotion. I want to create an atmosphere - like a set designer but through music, whether I'm sharing original music in concert, interpreting a Classical masterwork, setting the mood for a wedding, or rousing a crowd at a Rock or Bluegrass show. I hear music as a story. Vivid imagery and deep feeling move me beyond the auditory to experience music as a form of dynamic communication with my collaborators, my audience, my students, and my 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

Site by Laurel Thomsen
Photography by Michelle Magdalena
Skype: laurelthomsen

Become a VIP fan!

Join my periodic newsletter and be the first to learn about her adventures, music, tour dates, and new recordings. On occasion I'll also offer mailing list only downloads and discounts.
© 1996-2024 Laurel Thomsen, Email me