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Karen's near four decade span through genres as a violinist includes an eclectic range of Orchestral, Gospel, R&B, Latin, New Age, Rock, Hip Hop and several Jazz styles. All mostly linked by improvisation and embellishment, her audio visual signature has become popular and sought after for a variety of live events and recorded projects both domestic and international. Karen appears as a feature in twelve music video concerts, hundreds of recordings and has recorded four solo projects.
With her combined experiences, Karen continues to develop original music while seeking continued expansion and development of the contemporary violin sound.
Karen has also 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 was born in New York in 1963. After her family's relocation to Portsmouth, Virginia she started learning violin at age eleven at junior high school. With strong family music influences, Karen began to experiment with the violin outside of it's traditional expectations and quickly caught-on locally as a unique feature talent at weddings, jazz and church concerts. She was even featured with the marching band at half-time for a Norfolk State University's homecoming game. This took place while she was also performing with The Virginia Symphony and a full-time, Music Media major.
Validated by the knowledge of a few violinists who, like herself, performed non-traditional violin styles: Noel Pointer, Jean Luc Ponty and Dr. Roland Sunkins, (a local area improviser on violin) Karen performed at local jam sessions and learned more about improvising and continuing to study 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 show that uniquely 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 Briggs’ fiery violin solos have been seen literally by millions internationally. In fact, the PBS special of "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 behind Michael Jackson's "Thriller". 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 in "The History Maker's" roster.
From there, performance opportunities became more prestigious and frequent. While accompanied by pianist/composer Dave Grusin, Karen represented jazz violin for a NYC string program benefit fundraising event hosted by Itzhak Perlman and Isaac Stern, marking her feature debut at Carnegie Hall. A cameo appearance in the resulting family movie classic entitled, "Music of the Heart" represents Karen among the top violinists in the world.
Original "Return-To-Forever" members, Stanley Clarke and Lenny White assembled a group-titled, 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 to appear on The Oprah Winfrey Show.
Briggs' musical expression is featured in successful hip hop releases such as "Reunited" by Rza & Wu Tang Clan and Hidden Beach’s Unwrapped series Vol. 1-5, of which her rendition of “Gangsta’s Paradise” continues to command standing ovations.
She endorses Yamaha Strings' Silent Electric Violin and there's much more, but in closing, it was an impressed fan who posted that a Karen Briggs performance should be on everyone’s list of things to do before they die...