She’s A Player
Colorado transplant is a whiz at all kinds of music
by CAREY SWEET
photography by CHRIS HARDY
AS ASHLEY HOLMBERG described her music style, she played air violin, tilting her head onto an imaginary instrument beneath her chin, the notes seemingly dancing in her mind.
“Classical, country two-step, Americana, folk stomp, worship, rock and indie pop,” the Healdsburg musician said. “Rhythm, modern music, R&B, pop, rap, I’m all-in.”
Not to mention her original compositions of “progressive stadium rock with film-score accents” that are coming with her first album, set for release in July, in partnership with indie pop band Brix.
It’s certainly not what you might expect from a classically trained symphony violinist and violist, but then, this 28-year-old talent has been pushing the artistic envelope since she picked up her first violin at age 8. During the past decade, she has played Thai fiddle in Thailand, Mapuche instruments in Chile, country two-step violin tunes in Colorado, classical compositions in Alaska, and virtually every other style ranging from Gregorian chant to Gershwin, Americana to Afroman.
She moved to Sonoma County only last spring but already is a fixture in the arts and music scene. Holmberg has performed at live shows with local Americana band Cahoots and folk stomp group Mr. December. She also plays at private parties, featuring both set compositions and freestyle, spinning riffs on songs as diverse as Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 and the Eagles’ “Hotel California.”
“It’s been incredibly unique how everyone has welcomed me into the community and been so willing to integrate me into their ensembles,” Holmberg said. “They just say, ‘Oh sure, play with me,’ and it’s so natural.”
Holmberg has lived in deep musical immersion since she was 5, when she heard a family friend play violin for the first time.
“I was mesmerized,” she said. “I went nuts listening to the radio and movie soundtracks. I bugged my parents endlessly, and finally got my first violin.”
Growing up in Fairbanks, Alaska, she studied under Gail Johansen, a violinist with the renowned Suzuki Association of the Americas. Later, she trained with internationally recognized violinist and violist Barbara Barber, and soloist Juliet White-Smith. She toured with the Alaska Festival Singers choir in Switzerland, Germany and Italy, performing at Mass at the Vatican and St. Mark’s Basilica. And she taught music at Mahidol University in Bangkok.
“I’ve always wanted to be an integral part of something bigger than myself,” Holmberg explained. “Each day is new growth.”