Bridgid Bibbens is one of the most sought-after violinists in the United States. She plays a bright pink, seven-string, fretted electric violin, yet is also completely proficient in classical music. She’s been written about in Guitar World, is in high demand as a studio musician and has performed with artists spanning Christina Aguilera to Mary J. Blige to Jay-Z.
She’s also from Weedsport.
“Weedsport is a really unique town because the school is consistently one of the top in the United States,” says Bibbens. “It’s a small school, so the teachers are really invested in you. And everybody knows you from the time you’re 4 years old. The whole town comes together to raise the kids, a village to raise a child. It’s a creative and supportive community, and people really celebrate any unique talent any kid has. They really nourish and encourage that any way possible.”
Bibbens showed her talent at an early age. She was barely 3 when she was fascinated by the televised image of Dr. Shin’ichi Suzuki, who developed the Suzuki method of violin. She started lessons with Winn Pusey (sister of Muriel Bodley, an instructor with Syracuse University’s Setnor School of Music) and remembers her parents driving her 40 minutes to and from each lesson. She began the Suzuki method and group lessons with Bodley soon after.
Meanwhile, strings weren’t offered in school, so she also took up the oboe the summer after fourth grade. She also played with the Syracuse Symphony Youth Orchestra (SSYO) and left as concertmaster.
After graduating from Weedsport in 1995, Bibbens planned to attend DePaul University in Chicago. When her scholarship fell through, Syracuse University became a viable option.
“I had no desire to go to SU,” she says. “I didn’t even know it had a music school. I wanted to get out of town and into a big city as quickly as I could. But I got a full scholarship to SU and it ended up being the best thing for me. I got to keep studying with my teachers. And I was being coached by the symphony players who I had always admired.
“There were a lot more opportunities for me at Syracuse rather than somewhere else,” Bibbens continues. “I was familiar with the people here already. They knew who I was and I knew who they were. It was a great transition from college life into a professional career.”
Bibbens studied with Ruxandra Simionescu, Phil MacArthur, Greg Wood, John Laverty and John Coggiola. They helped steer her toward her successful career path.
She studied oboe and violin performance at SU, graduating in 1998, then stayed on The Hill to obtain her master’s degree in music education in 2000. She taught public school orchestra in Fulton, N.Y., and Boston, Mass., but she wasn’t satisfied.
Bibbens crossed paths with violinist Mark Wood (brother of the aforementioned Greg Wood) and the chance meeting led to a new career. She had already been planning a move from education, but after meeting Wood, she decided to become his assistant in 2007. Wood also has his own line of electric violins and runs the Electrify Your Strings (EYS) music program which bridges imagination and intellect, classical with improvisation. Bibbens started as an assistant with high-profile freelance jobs on the side, but eventually became a teaching artist within the program.
Bibbens has released her own solo album, Sugar & Steel, still works with EYS, continues to play with the biggest names in popular music and maintains the love of her hometown. “I haven’t been back to Syracuse since I left (in 2003),” she says. “I did one EYS program and was in and out very quickly. This is my first residency there and I’m really excited. I’d love to make it a regular thing.”
The homecoming will also feature two other Weedsport graduates. Bibbens’ brother Darin, a bass player, and Joe “Sal” Giancarelli, who went on to become the drummer for Staind, will also join her for the Tuesday, March 31, performance at Weedsport Junior-Senior High School.
“I’m very excited to go back to Syracuse,” she says. “I think it’s really neat that people are opening their minds to improvising strings. I’ve known for many years that these things need to be brought to string music education. Whether you’re a performance or education major, it’s important to diversity strings. The collapse of the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra proved that. Teaching only classical is very limiting.
“It’s good to go to my seven-string electric and show them (students) that there are other alternatives to consider. I want to teach future string players or help them become pro-string players. I want to encourage kids from Weedsport to dream big and see what can happen.”
Bridgid Bibbens’ Schedule
Thursday, March 26
A free presentation from 12:30 to 1:50 p.m. at Syracuse University’s Setnor Auditorium, followed by a meet-and-greet session.
Bibbens will head a strings master class at 5 p.m. at SU’s Crouse College, Room 404. The class is also free and open to the public.
Bibbens caps her day with an 8 p.m. performance featuring Mark Nanni and The Intention at Phoebe’s Restaurant, 900 E. Genesee St. Admission is free.
Saturday, March 28
Bibbens performs a 7:30 p.m. Electrify Your Strings concert at West Genesee High School, 5201 W. Genesee St., Camillus. Tickets are $6.
Tuesday, March 31
Bibbens’ final music appearance takes place at 7 p.m. at Weedsport Junior-Senior High School, 2821 E. Brutus St., Weedsport.
Also on the program will be the middle and high school bands, choruses and jazz ensembles. Admission is free, but donations to the school’s music program are encouraged.
For more information, visit www.bridgidbibbens.com.