The French have a word for it. Dilettante. In the past the British would sometimes sneer at the mention of a dilettante. Possibly because it is a French word (there are many here who will never quite understand or see eye-to-eye with our cousins across the water) but also to them, it suggests ‘jack of all trades, master of none’. Now, we generally embrace one who has a well-rounded portfolio of skills and abilities, that can often inform and enhance each other. Someone like Joan Wasser. Someone who can not only play a mean violin, but also guitars and piano. She can write songs, too, can sing like a veritable bird, and knows her way around a studio to the extent that she produced Scottish folk band Lau’s album of 2015, The Bell That Never Rang. That part of her CV should tell you everything. Not in the least known for playing folk music, Wasser nevertheless has, throughout her musical life, embraced a keen musical curiosity, that allied to a seemingly insatiable lust for life, has seen her form countless collaborations, try out new things, and test the overlapping waters of musical genres and cross-fertilisations.
Indeed, she started out as a classical performer, picking up the piano and violin at an early age, eventually going to Boston University to study music, and performing with the Boston University Symphony Orchestra. “I was very interested in studying classically”, explains Wasser. "I love the music and needed to see if I could really excel. Excel I did but I wasn’t interested in making classical music all my life. I learned that while in school. It felt very limiting. I was never the student who wanted to learn the Beethoven concerto, I was the one who wanted to play the chamber music that had just been written by the composition students at my school; I wanted to play the new stuff, not pieces that have, in my opinion, already been perfected by the masters. When I was in school I took every gig I could and began making pop music, playing with all kinds of ensembles, improvising. I started playing in bands and with artists that I would learn so much from and play with for years like Mary Timony (who now fronts Ex-Hex) and The Dambuilders.” In short, Wasser wanted to “bridge the gap between the guitar and the bass and play the violin really loud.”