Whenever she performs with her violin, Caroline Campbell gets into The Zone — a mental state of deep focus and concentration.
“Sometimes I actually try to visualize a story that would capture the mood of the music and try to tell a story through that particular passage,” she said. “I’m latching onto an image or a scene in a movie, hopefully to give it some extra color or feeling.”
Of course, The Zone doesn’t always entail thoughts on other art forms.
“I have also been known to be thinking about what kind of ice cream I want later,” she said.
Whatever she’s thinking when she performs at this year’s Festival Mozaic, Campbell will likely be pretty dialed into the music — which is what you might expect from someone who’s been playing violin longer than she can remember.
“My mom started me in the Suzuki (violin) program, when I was 3,” she said. “And I guess I took to it. So it has always kind of been part of my life.”
While she grew up classically trained, Campbell is not limited to classical music. In fact, she has worked with a range of musicians, including the hip-hop group The Black Eyed Peas, country artist Garth Brooks and jazz singer Michael Buble.
“I feel extremely lucky to have the assortment of musical adventures I’ve been offered,” she said. “I played with Sting last week — featured onstage and soloed with him — in Russia, and I played with Stevie Wonder at the Library of Congress.”
While that might not represent an itinerary for a traditional clas-
sical musician, Campbell is probably not considered a traditional classical musician. For one thing, she doesn’t even have a music degree.
After beginning studies at the Cleveland Institute of Music, she transferred to Stanford University, where she got a bachelor’s degree in symbolic systems and later a master’s degree in sociology.
“I was doing a lot of music — I was taking music classes and hanging out with musicians, which I enjoyed,” she said. “But I did feel after a while that spending most of my life in a windowless practice room was not going to make me a good musician.”
While she ultimately chose to get a degree outside of music, her entire life had been steeped in music education, from her first lessons at age 3 to her solo debut with the Reno Philharmonic Orchestra at age 8 to her selection as a Presidential Scholar during her senior year of high school in 1998.
Her mother deserves at least a nod for her success, having gotten Campbell into music lessons — and having convinced her to stick with it.
“I loved parts of playing and performing,” she said. “But the every day practice was terrible — I hated it. And I give full credit to my mom for being the one who said, ‘No, you just need to do a little bit every day before you talk on the phone to your friends.”
Of course, the years of playing music probably figured into her decision to switch majors in college. But the move didn’t hurt her music career. Today she regularly tours with jazz trumpeter Chris Botti, and she remains a popular session violinist, performing or recording with well-known performers including Barbra Streisand, Rod Stewart, Carlos Santana, John Legend, Alicia Keys and a slew of others.
During Festival Mozaic, Campbell will perform several times, including concerts with the Festival Orchestra and with the smaller chamber orchestras. Last week she was featured at one of the festival’s Notable Encounters, the more intimate concerts in which the artists typically talk about the pieces they perform.
While Campbell has played plenty of large venues, she’s no stranger to smaller ones.
Once she even played violin on an airplane.
“I was coming home from a concert, and a stewardess asked if I could play a little bit for the passengers,” she said. “And I laughed and said, ‘Are you serious?’ And she said, ‘Sure.’ So I just played some fun stuff over a microphone.”