Karen Briggs

Karen Briggs's Biography

Karen Briggs' span across genres as a violinist includes an eclectic range of orchestral, gospel, R&B, Latin, new age, rock, hip hop and several jazz styles. Linked by improvisation and embellishment, her audio-visual signature has become popular and sought after for a variety of events and recordings internationally. Karen is featured in twelve music video concerts, hundreds of recordings and four solo projects. She continues to develop original music while seeking continued expansion and development of the contemporary violin sound.

Karen has conducted improvisational violin workshops as an artist-in-residency at Berklee Music College, The Kennedy Center and The Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts. In an effort to encourage the evolution of the instrument's use in contemporary music and advocating the preservation of music in American public schools, Karen has been an inspiration to many.

Karen started learning violin in junior high school. With strong family music influences, she began to experiment with the violin outside of its traditional expectations. She quickly caught on locally, as a unique talent at weddings and jazz and church concerts. Karen was featured with the marching band at halftime for a Norfolk State University homecoming game. This took place while she was also performing with The Virginia Symphony and studying as a music media major.

Validated by the knowledge of a few violinists who also performed non-traditional violin styles, including Noel Pointer, Jean Luc Ponty and Dr. Roland Sunkins, Karen performed at local jam sessions and learned more about improvising and study of classical techniques.

After a four-time winning streak on "Amateur Night at the Apollo", she moved to Los Angeles where she investigated the local Latin music scene for several years. In 1990, she landed her first major tour with British based R&B sensation, Soul ll Soul, a unique show that included a trio of dancing violinists. The following year, Karen auditioned for the Yanni string band. Now often referred to as the Lady in Red, Karen's fiery violin solos have been seen by millions internationally. The PBS special Yanni: Live at the Acropolis has been broadcasted in 65 countries, viewed by over 500 million people and is the second best-selling music video of all time. Karen is the first African American Violinist to have ever performed at The Herodian Theater, The Taj Mahal, Agra, India and the Forbidden City in China, and had the distinguished honor of being included on The History Maker's roster.

While accompanied by pianist/composer Dave Grusin, Karen performed for a NYC string program fundraising event hosted by Itzhak Perlman and Isaac Stern, marking her feature debut at Carnegie Hall. The resulting family movie classic, Music of the Heart, featured a cameo appearance by Karen, marking her among the top violinists in the world.

Original Return to Forever members Stanley Clarke and Lenny White assembled a jazz-rock project called Vertu, earning Karen even more respect in the jazz-fusion genre. Soon after, an invite from Diana Ross came, with an opportunity to record and appear on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Karen's musical expression is featured on successful hip hop releases such as "Reunited" by Rza & Wu Tang Clan and Hidden Beach's Unwrapped series, vol. 1-5, on which her rendition of "Gangsta's Paradise" continues to command standing ovations.

Karen Briggs's Gear
Karen Briggs

Gear List

SV-250 SV-110