Karen's near four decade span through genres as a violinist includes an eclectic range of orchestral, gospel, R&B, Latin, new age, hip hop and various jazz styles. All mostly linked by improvisation and embellishment, her signature has become a popular and sought after sound for a variety of projects both domestic and international. Karen appears as a feature in eleven music video concerts and 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 is in the final stages of releasing her newest project, an instrumental alliance, featuring Persian conductor/arranger, Shardad Rohani. Rohani arranges and conducts a 42-piece orchestra with Karen's rhythm section and original compositions. The project includes contributions from long time music bonds: Munyungo Jackson, Brandon Coleman, Jimmy Mahlis, Gail Jhonson, Pedro Eustache and others.
Briggs’ most current release, "Soulchestral Groove", features the fire driven 'soul-os' that the violinist is most recognized for and exposes her talents as a clever arranger over an eclectic mix of influences.
Downlaod "Soulchestral Groove"!
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 families relocation to Portsmouth, Va she started learning violin at age eleven at in 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 games. 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 win at “Amateur Night at the Apollo”, she moved to Los Angeles where she investigated the local Latin music scene for several years. In 1990, she earned 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 Yanni’s string band. Now often referred to as "the lady in red", Karen Briggs’ fiery violin solo’s recorded on the "Live at the Acropolis" PBS special, have been seen literally by millions internationally. In fact, the PBS special has been broadcast 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".
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 among doubting musicians. Soon after, an invite from Diana Ross came with an opportunity to record and to appear with 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 renditinon of “Gangsta’s Paradise” continues to be a crowd favorite.
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...