Karen Bentley Pollick is one of America’s leading contemporary musicians, performing a wide range of solo repertoire and styles on violin, viola, piano and Norwegian hardangerfele to extend the boundaries of the concert experience from the Baroque to cutting edge contemporary music and live improvisations. A native of Palo Alto, California, she began piano lessons at age 5 with Armenian pianist Rusana Sysoyev, studied with Camilla Wicks in San Francisco, and with Yuval Yaron, Josef Gingold and Rostislav Dubinsky at Indiana University, where she received both Bachelors and Masters of Music Degrees in Violin Performance with a cognate in Choral Conducting. She performed in master classes of Nathan Milstein in Zurich, Jean-Jacques Kantorow in Victoria, B.C., and Glenn Dicterow in Carmel, CA. Her recordings of original music include Electric Diamond, Angel, Konzerto and Succubus and Ariel View, for which she has received three music awards from Just Plain Folks, including Best Instrumental Album and Best Song. On her own record label Ariel Ventures she has produced chamber music featuring works by Russian pianist/composer Ivan Sokolov on <amberwood>, Homage to Fiddlers& Russian Soulscapes; music of Swedish composer Ole Saxe on Dancing Suite to Suite & Peace Piece; Bebop for Beagles, Estadio, and filmed Dan Tepfer’s Solo Blues for Violin and Piano. She has also recorded for CRI, Sony, RCA and Camel Productions, as well as the Bridge, Albany, Mode, Numinous, Innova, Tzadik, NEOS, Toccata Classics, Blue Coast Records and Lithuanian Music Center labels.
Concertmaster of the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie Kammerorchester and the New York String Orchestra, Karen has also participated in the June in Buffalo and Wellesley Composers Conferences, and the Olympic Music, Tanglewood, Amelia Island, Next Generation, Canberra, Permainu Muzika, and Bowling Green State Contemporary Music Festivals. She has toured with the New York Philharmonic, Mikhail Baryshnikov's White Oak Dance Project, Erick Hawkins Dance Company, the Bolshoi Ballet and Barbra Streisand, and has recorded with the Dave Matthews Band and Evanescence as well as numerous film scores at Skywalker Ranch. She was a guest artist with the contemporary music group Opus Posthumous from Moscow, Seattle Chamber Players in their Icebreaker II: Baltic Voices Festival, and Ensemble for the Romantic Century in New York.
She premiered Swedish composer Ole Saxe’s Dance Suite for Violin and Orchestra with Redwood Symphony and has performed concertos with the Alabama Symphony and orchestras in Panama, Russia, Alaska, New York, California, Lithuania and Ukraine. Karen has presented recitals with Ivan Sokolov at the American Academy of Rome, Seattle, New York City, Alabama, Louisiana and Colorado and throughout the Czech Republic; with cellist Dennis Parker at the American Spring Festival in Brno; and in England at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival where she gave the UK premiere of David Felder’s Another Face for violin solo with Delcom video walls. Along with choreographer Teri Weksler and percussionist John Scalici, she received a Cultural Alliance of Greater Birmingham 2008 Interdisciplinary Grant to Individual Artists towards the creation of Quips and Cranks. Karen was awarded a grant from the Alabama State Council for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts for her March 2010 Solo Violin and Alternating Currents concerts including the premiere of Metaman by Charles Norman Mason in Birmingham, Seattle and at Music Olomouc 2011. She launched Violin, Viola & Video Virtuositywith New York video artist Sheri Wills in April 2012 at Evergroove Studio and has since performed the program featuring dozens of videos projected onto the violinist in Brooklyn, Seattle, Colorado Springs, Klaipeda, New York, Bucharest, and Stanford. With the Paul Dresher Double Duo she toured Australia in May 2013 and the US in fall 2014 and has performed with the Paul Dresher Electro-Acoustic Ensemble since 1999.
While residing in Vilnius, Lithuania she debuted Resonances from Vilna with pianist Jascha Nemtsov in May 2014, Nothing is Forever with actor Aiste Ptakauske in December 2015, and premiered David A. Jaffe’s violin concerto How Did It Get So Late So Soon? with the Lithuanian National Opera & Ballet Theatre Orchestra with Maestro Robertas Šervenikas in August 2016.
Karen received a Seed Money Grant for Disseminated Performances from New York Women Composers towards solo concerts with electronics at Wayward Music Series in Seattle, Stanford University’s CCRMA, CINETic and George Enescu Museum in Bucharest, and Female Composers Festival at SPECTRUMNYC in spring 2018. She is represented on two tracks of Dorothy Hindman’s Tightly Wound, released on Innova and winner of #1 Gold Medal in the Fall 2017 Global Music Awards. In June 2018 she recorded the two violin concerti of Hermann Graedener for Toccata Classics with Viennese conductor Gottfried Rabl and the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine. Pollick currently serves as concertmaster of Valse Café Orchestra in Seattle, and Principal Second Violin and Festival Artist with the Colorado MahlerFest Orchestra in Boulder. Karen performs on a violin made by Jean Baptiste Vuillaume in 1860 and a viola made in 1987 by William Whedbee.
CURRENT & FUTURE
Karen Bentley Pollick resides in the charming pueblo of San Pancho, where she participates in the local music scene while preparing for upcoming concerts and recordings around the world. She has performed at San Pancho, Chacala and Sinergiarte Music Festivals in Nayarit and is a founding member of Camerata de Puerto Vallarta. With Peruvian guitarist Alfredo Muro, Duo KarMu will debut in San Miguel de Allende at Casa Europa on November 14, 2019. Another duo with German flautist Klaus Liebetanz is based in Puerto Vallarta under the aegis of Virtuosos de Cámara and will debut at Incanto on January 19, 2020.
Karen continues her 25 year collaboration with harpsichordist Jonathan Salzedo in the San Francisco Bay Area since co-directing the annual PACO Bach Celebration Concerts in Portola Valley for several seasons during the month of March. With Don Slepian and Stuart Diamond, New York based Electric Diamond merges live video and multi media performances with electro acoustic improvisations. She serves as Principal Second Violin and Festival Artist at Colorado MahlerFest in Boulder every May, and as Concertmaster of Valse Café Orchestra in Seattle. Russian pianist/composer Ivan Sokolov joins Karen on their fourth recording featuring his recent chamber music. With the Viennese conductor Gottfried Rabl, a protégé of Leonard Bernstein, she recorded the two violin concerti of Hermann Graedener from 1905 and 1914 with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine in Kyiv to be released on Toccata Classics.
Karen performs annually at Stanford University’s Center for Computer Research in Music & Acoustics in a variety of works for solo violin or viola with mixed media, electronics and video. Upcoming concerts at CCRMA include new works by Lithuanian composers Žibuoklė Martinaitytė and Mantautas Krukauskas, Ukrainian Ludmila Yurina, German Julius Holtz, Irish Eoin Callery, and Romanian Constantin Basica. She will tour with the Paul Dresher Ensemble and vocalist Amy X Neuburg in their 2014 project “They will have been so beautiful: Songs and images of now” in April 2020. As her contribution to “EXTRACTION: Art on the Edge of the Abyss” in summer 2021, Karen will premiere a new piece by Montana native composer Jerry Mader featuring violin and synthesized voices in proximity to the copper mines in Butte.
“Rarely will a recital such as this engage the ear from beginning to end, yet each piece at Birmingham Museum of Art event had a unique style and temperament, reflecting Pollick’s keen sense for gleaning quality in experimental music and giving these scores their rightful due…Pollick not only extended that thread, she vitalized and emboldened it.”
Michael Huebner, Birmingham News
“Bentley Pollick’s violin playing was nothing short of astonishing, delivering absolute precision with double and triple stops, as well as accented bowed staccati. In the scordatura second movement, she produced low tones of a truly extraordinary timbre.”
Judith Crispin, CityNews, Canberra
“It’s rare to see the violin and piano played simultaneously – by one person. Karen Bentley Pollick, a violinist, pulled off that exciting feat when she played Dan Tepfer’s “Solo Blues for Violin and Piano” on Sunday at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Birmingham… Toward the end, she and (Grant) Dalton were able to let loose on a piece called “Salsa for Karen for Violin and Percussion” by Ole Saxe. Pollick clearly has a personal connection with this piece, and she pretty much lit the house on fire with her movements as well as her playing as Dalton kept up the beat. But after having played the piano and violin simultaneously, she deserved to go wild…”
Richard LeComte, Birmingham News
“Chorale Times Two, the second movement of Dresher’s 1996-97 violin concerto, pitted a rhapsodic violin soliloquy, superbly played by Karen Bentley Pollick, against Dresher’s more piercing electric guitar riffs. Again, the music depended on the contrasts — in both time and texture — between these two veins. “
Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle