Artist2Artist: Andy Statman – What is it to be Ferocious?

Andy Statman with Lisa JacobiYou know what drives me nuts? It’s pretty simple. It’s for me to be on stage and play a fiddle note that is not good quality. Mind you, it can be one note in thousands — or it can be a bunch of poorly delivered notes because “it’s just one of those nights” or I arrived at a show without proper warm up and daily wood-shedding, or I’m just having a crappy night. And, after the show is over and I’m off stage… I WILL remember that ONE note. It will stick in my craw.

I’d like to think that this means I have embedded somewhere within my musical DNA one little ferocity chromosome.

When it comes to having ferocity in one’s personal musical genome, there are no others like these recognizable mandolin players Bill Monroe, Marty Stuart, Ricky Skaggs, Chris Thile, Sam Bush, Jesse McReynolds, Mike Marshall, Sierra Hull, Mike Compton, David Grisman and foremost for me, David’s student of a handful of lessons… Andy Statman.

A “ferocious” artist creates a musical energy shift when they walk into a room or onto a stage. And famous doesn’t mean ferocious. We have the famous, we have the ferocious, and just a handful are both.

As Andy Statman discusses in our recorded interview, the first and second generation masters who created bluegrass music — they were ferocious. Their creative genius and passion for being unique and excellent are either channeled from a spiritual source or embedded throughout their personal genome… and probably both. These artists travel their OWN path and don’t focus on the tactics of others.

Listen to Lisa’s Artist2Artist conversation with Andy Statman:


Andy Statman doesn’t play on Friday nights or Saturday during the day. He doesn’t even pick up an instrument. Instead he uses that time period for his faith, reflection and spiritual nourishment.

In speaking with Andy, I begin to see how the weekly ritual of honoring and celebrating this space in his life will magnify his artistic pursuits over the next 6 days until next Friday night. It’s not your normal track:

  • He relishes the tone of a polished note or sitting knee-to-knee playing music with a creative genius.
  • He prefers to perform in historic, architecturally magnificent non-music venues or in small 100 seat theaters on the sketchy side of town. These are the kinds of places that most musicians would snub because there is not the potential for playing in front of thousands with hoped-for merchandise sales.
  • He lives and thrives in the Flatbush neighborhood of New York. Within blocks of his home is a sensational mix of indigenous regional musical sounds. Those blocks are pulsating with inspiration derived from jazz, Klezmer, ancient Hasidic, Caribbean, Azerbaijani, and Russian influences.

But don’t confuse this description of Andy’s musical path as closing one’s self off to the world. To take Andy’s own words and turn the light back on him: “Master Musicians aren’t born into a monolithic culture. They master one style and then master or blend another style into their original style.”

As you’ll learn in our recorded interview, Andy is now studying traditional Greek Epirus music to incorporate into his clarinet and mandolin playing.

For those who are not familiar with Andy Statman, he is a Musical Master of Klezmer and Jazz Clarinet, too.

Andy is one of the most extraordinary Musical Masters in our midst. He is spiritually fulfilled and creatively hungry. David Grisman, who Andy sought out while a youngster for a handful of beginner mandolin lessons, will vouch for this. Grisman evolved from Andy’s instructor into collaborative partner. Check out the 1995 Grisman-Statman project Songs Of Our Fathers.

This is what it is to be a Musical Master of old, and this is what it is to be a Musical Master of now: keep your focus on what is authentic to you, and be ferocious. Which, for some, is not a choice… it is a calling.

If you have about 15-20 minutes, scroll back up and listen to my Artist2Artist interview with Andy Statman recorded backstage at the Barking Legs Theater in Chattanooga. There is so much there to inspire you. Thanks for reading and for listening.