Checking in with Sarah Jarosz

We had the opportunity recently to check in with Sarah Jarosz, who is doing double-duty as a touring singer/songwriter, and taking a full load of courses as a first year student at Boston’s New England Conservatory of Music. Her debut CD, Song Up In Her Head, was released on Sugar Hill while she was a senior in high school, and NEC offered her a full, four-year scholarship to study at the school.

Curious about how she is handling her busy new life, I chatted with Sarah last week and discovered that she had made the Dean’s List during the fall ’09 semester. I guess she is handling it just fine.

“It’s been a really good learning experience. Everyone here loves music and is really inspiring. There are so many incredible musicians at NEC – and in Boston in general – and I’ve been able to collaborate with some amazing players. It’s such a supportive community… but where it could become a competitive thing, it’s really been the opposite of that.

It’s been really good touring since school started, but it has been a balancing act. I’m taking the required classes – the same amount as everyone else. I have to do all the work, but my teachers are very understanding of my situation.”

Sarah says she doesn’t feel like a different person, but knows that her studies and her environment are having an impact on her music.

“The main thing I can see is that NEC has taken me out of my comfort zone musically, and I am playing and listening to so many types of music. I was in a world music and a Jewish music ensemble in the Fall, and this semester I’m doing jazz improv and theory.

I’m living in the dorms – it has been interesting, and a very good learning experience as well. Because I’m gone so much, being in the dorm had made it easier to meet so many new people. Next year, I’ll probably move into an apartment off campus.”

Sarah tells us that she has gotten a little bit of recording done for her next album. She went in to the studio in January over Christmas break, and will go back during the summer. Loose plans call for a release early in 2011, but things are just too preliminary to be any more specific than that.

The biggest issue has been songwriting…

“That has been a bit of a challenge – trying to find the alone time to get into the writing. I have a songwriting workshop this semester, which is 9 people who get together to share and listen.

I’m still learning how to manage my time better. The more and more I’m here, the more and more I’m learning.”

And isn’t that what college is supposed to be about? Hats off to Sarah Jarosz for taking advantage of this opportunity to broaden her musical horizons – and to the New England Conservatory for opening the door.

She has been touring of late with a trio – Alex Hargreaves on fiddle, Nathaniel Smith on cello, and Sarah on banjo, guitar and mandolin. You can follow her schedule online.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.