Creative Freedom: How Jazz and the 5-string Violin have Unlocked a World of Infinite Musical Possibility

Violinist Gianna Pedregon discusses her love for jazz and the versatility of violin in this 2021 feature on teen string players.

By Gianna Pedregon | From the March-April 2021 issue of Strings magazine

Honored as an outstanding soloist by the Monterey Next Generation Jazz Festival, violinist Gianna Pedregon is also a National YoungArts finalist and medal winner, outstanding violinist and performer at the Reno Jazz Festival, and a DownBeat honors winner in the high-school category. She has participated in the Colburn Jazz Workshop, Stanford Jazz Workshop, and Berklee Jazz and Gender Justice Workshop.

NAME Gianna Pedregon
AGE 17
INSTRUMENT 5-string violin 
HOMETOWN Whittier, California
SCHOOL Orange County School of the Arts

Why I Chose the Violin
I began with the Suzuki Program when I was four. I had a wonderful, caring teacher, Liz Arbus, who inspired me, and I continue to work with her to this day. By age 8, I became exposed to jazz and alternative music styles. My love for music exploded, and I eventually found wonderful versatility playing a five-string violin. The extended range gives me access to the rich tones of a viola without sacrificing the sparkle of the upper registers.

Why I Love Being a String Player
Playing violin has been a crazy and wild ride. It has been such a unique experience to be a violinist in a jazz context. There are a few of us out there, but unlike orchestras or string ensembles that always keep at least a few designated spots reserved for violinists, in the jazz world, I feel like our presence must always be earned.

I constantly feel privileged to join with so many other great musicians to collaborate and bring new flavors to the jazz idiom using an instrument that for so long has been one of the sweetest and most expressive gifts to many musical genres. I feel both challenged and honored to have the opportunity to contribute to this great musical legacy. What I love about playing violin is what I love about jazz—a complete freedom to creatively express my own musical ideas and to interact in musical conversations with others.


The violin is an incredibly versatile instrument. There is no limit to how it can be used.

I am usually the only string player in any group I play with (except for bass and guitar). If anyone has never heard me play before, I am often regarded with quiet curiosity. People aren’t sure what to expect. It’s kind of a casual “wait and see” vibe. Everyone is always cool about it though, and when people spot my instrument, it’s always a great conversation starter.

The feeling I get when I perform is another reason I love jazz so much—it just can’t be duplicated. You are creating sounds in the moment that will never be heard again, just like you don’t ever have the exact same conversation twice with a group of friends. It’s just that special mix, that vibe, and the people that were there to contribute their thoughts at that time.

Play the music that inspires you. For me it’s jazz! The violin is an incredibly versatile instrument. There is no limit to how it can be used.

My Most Valuable String Lesson
Undoubtedly, my most valuable string lesson was learning that there was so much more to music than just the notes on the page. We all have an indebtedness to the past masters who lovingly recorded and passionately notated timeless treasures that will forever delight our senses, but one is ultimately transformed and empowered by the recognition that your own musical consciousness can invent and express its own song. Improvisation truly has opened up a new world to me about what music is and the joy of musical conversation.


My Musical Life
I play in various jazz combos and big bands, both inside and outside of school. I play regularly with the Colburn Jazz Workshop, and I was also honored to be selected as a National YoungArts Finalist for 2021, so I look forward to playing with some outstanding musicians in that group as well.

I attend an outstanding conservatory program at my high school, and I am easily able to connect with other string players in the classical conservatory. For my career, however, I am fortunate to be surrounded by outstanding jazz musicians who have generously mentored me, helping me understand the music business and how to best pursue my craft.

My Most Memorable Playing Experience
Without a doubt, I will always remember playing a full set at the Monterey Jazz Festival in 2019. If it weren’t for the pandemic, I would have had another opportunity to perform there in 2020.


I played with a select group of female high-school musicians known as the Monterey Next Generation Women in Jazz. They are some of the most talented musicians I have had the honor to work with. And playing at the most famous jazz festival in the world was completely unforgettable!

Bassist and vocalist Katie Thiroux was our brilliant director, and all the girls in the group were so professional. We pulled off a great performance with just a couple of short rehearsals after everyone converged from around the country just a day before. We played several of our own original tunes, and it was thrilling to think what jazz legends might be listening in the crowd!

My Career Goals
I am a senior in high school right now, and am applying to several music schools around the country. I plan to pursue a major in jazz studies and then build a career as a jazz musician. I would love to get my own group together someday and tour around the world!

Our Teen Strings Tip Sheets get young string players excited and inspired about making music. Download this FREE PDF for 4 tips for awesome YouTube videos, great metronome hacks, and more.