Multigenre Adventure: Playing Both Classical and Fiddle Music Has Led to Incredible Musical Experiences

Violinist Charlotte Marckx discusses how playing the violin has given her life purpose and structure in this 2021 feature on teen string players.

By Charlotte Marckx | From the March-April 2021 issue of Strings magazine

Violinist Charlotte Marckx was named a 2019 Davidson Fellow, and won the gold medal and Bach prize at the 2018 Stulberg International String Competition. She was also a major prizewinner at the 2018 Johansen International Competition for Young String Players. Marckx has soloed with many orchestras and has been featured on such programs as NPR’s From the Top. As a multigenre artist, she performs with her sister Olivia in their duo, Sempre Sisters, and studies with Robert Lipsett.

NAME Charlotte Marckx
AGE 18
HOMETOWN Bellevue, Washington
SCHOOL Colburn Conservatory of Music, Los Angeles

Why I Chose the Violin
My mom is a cello teacher and she was teaching my older sister cello successfully, so I began cello as well—only to find out I was terrible at it! I struggled for about five months before my parents decided it was time for me to switch. I actually wanted to play the piano, but my parents chose the violin for me instead. I am so glad they did!

I actually love the detail and the routine of practice—constantly striving to be better in countless little ways, every single day

Why I Love Being a String Player
Playing the violin has given my life purpose and structure. I absolutely love the violin. It is my entire life’s passion. I adore the sound and versatility of the instrument and the beauty of the repertoire. I actually love the detail and the routine of practice—constantly striving to be better in countless little ways, every single day!


My Most Valuable String Lesson 
My most valuable lesson is probably the first lesson I ever had with my incredible teacher, Robert Lipsett. He told me something that I had never heard before—that as a fine violinist I should expect perfection from myself and nothing less. Throughout our lives we are told over and over that there is no such thing as perfection, which is true, but neglects to acknowledge that the constant and endless pursuit of it is incredibly fulfilling! To realize that perfection is, in fact, the end goal of artistry was nothing short of revolutionary for my mindset at the time.

My Musical Life
One of my most important outlets as a young string player is multigenre music, specifically folk music. My sister and I have been playing folk music for about eight years now and have had the chance to learn from some incredible masters, such as Mark and Maggie O’Connor and Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas.

We have been lucky enough to attend the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes in Port Townsend, Washington (staying with our aunt and uncle, a banjo player and a fiddler respectively, who got us hooked on fiddling in the first place!). Having a chance to make music in a laid-back community environment, learning music by ear, and working with the driving rhythmic patterns of folk music have all been incredibly freeing for my musicianship.


Alasdair Fraser talks about tapping into the groove and alleviating “boring bow”—valuable lessons for classical musicians! Our multigenre work has led us to do things like make videos of our arrangements of pop tunes (the Beatles, Michael Jackson, Elvis) and so much more! Multigenre music is my favorite way to have fun on the violin.

Social media has been a great way to be in contact with people who want to follow my career—I am Facebook friends with people who saw one of my concerts years ago! Working with my sister in our duo is also a really big part of how people follow me and how I connect with people in the music world.

My friends have always been very supportive of my violin career. From a young age I would bring my violin into class whenever I could find an excuse, so most of the kids I know have heard me play at some point. Being a violinist is kind of my “thing” among my friends—it is an important part of my identity socially, and my friends always get invested in whatever I’m working on.


My Most Memorable Playing Experience
In 2018 I competed in the Johansen International Competition and my judge was the incomparable Chee-Yun Kim. I had been a fan of hers for so long, and getting to meet her and play for her was an absolute dream. About a year and a half later my sister and I were, by some stroke of luck, invited to be artists at the Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival, and when I found out I would be playing second violin to Chee-Yun for a week of chamber music, I could not believe it! The whole experience felt unreal. Performing and collaborating with her were huge life highlights!

My Career Goals
My goal as a musician is to devote myself to the art of perfecting my skills on the violin. I can’t say for sure how that will translate into a career path! I know that I want to have a career in music and I love practicing and performing in concerts. Of course, a dream career would be working as a soloist, but any career that would encourage me to spend quality time with the instrument and the great works of art that make up the violin repertoire would be ideal for me.

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.