Published in the Ithaca Journal November 18, 2004

Lissa Schneckenburger interview

by Bill Chaisson

Lissa Schneckenburger is what is called 'cross-genre' fiddler. Although she grew up in Maine and considers herself a native 'New England-style' player, she is also at home with Scottish and Irish styles, and professes a love for klezmer music as well. Phantom Power, her contra dance ensemble, consists of Lissa on fiddle and Bruce Rosen on piano. Halali is inspired by the music of Scottish fiddler Alasdair Fraser, but the name comes from the first two letters of each membersí name (Hanneke Cassel, Laura Cortese and Lissa). The Lissa Schneckenberger Band, the incarnation that will visit Ithaca this weekend, includes Corey deMario on bass and Matt Heaton on guitar, and plays a little of everything.

How old were you when you started playing the fiddle and what induced you to pick it up in the first place?

I started when I was six, but I'd played the recorder with my mom for a year before that. I'm not sure why I picked the fiddle. My mom's best friend from college was a fiddler, and I'd heard her play. There were some girls down the street from us who were a little older and played the violin and cello. My mom also listened to a lot of fiddle music. Some combination of all of the above.

Who did you play with to begin with?  What was the setting?

I started taking lessons from Greg Boardman when I was about eight, and he invited me to sit in with the band at contra dances pretty much right away.

Why did you decide to go to the New England Conservatory?

I was pretty certain that I wanted to do music for a living, and with that in mind, couldn't see the sense in going to school for anything else. There was also a lot about music that I wanted to get better at, stuff I knew I needed to learn, and it seemed that the best way to do it was to completely surround myself with it. Be consumed by it. 

You will be in Ithaca on the same day as the Klezmatics. Do you play and/or enjoy klezmer music?

Oh yeah! I love klezmer music. I got into it in a big way when I was in college.  My favorite professor, Hankus Netsky, is a huge aficionado of klezmer music and culture, an ethnomusicologist and  wonderful band leader (Klezmer Conservatory 

Band) and performer.  I ended up learning quite a bit about the music by studying with him. 

Do you approach Scottish, Irish and contradance tunes differently?

I don't necessarily approach the styles of music differently, but I try my best to play them differently. Each style requires certain types of ornaments, certain types of dynamics and musical phrases to make them sound authentic. As a musician, you have to be aware of what is stylistically correct, and then make an informed decision on your own personal sound, and how you want your performance of it to be.

You are one of the few fiddlers that I can think of who is also a singer/songwriter. Do you have particular role models in this regard? 

To tell you the truth, although I occasionally write songs, I don't identify with the singer-songwriter genre.  For the most part, as a whole genre, it's not something that excites me. There are certainly amazing and wonderful artists within that genre who sort of transcend the stereotype, but for the most part I'm not interested in today's singer-songwriters. I identify much more with traditional singers, and when I happen to write a song, I try to keep traditional music in mind, as a kind of model.  Sort of like the Pete Seeger and Joan Baez model: they certainly wrote songs themselves, but they also performed a wide gamut of traditional material. Whatever spoke to them as musicians.

What can we expect on your forthcoming new album?  How will it differ from Different Game?

Well, the most obvious way is that there will be a lot more singing. The new album is half songs and half tunes. There is also a lot less material from modern composers. The majority of the material on it is traditional, except for a few tunes that I composed. I've also tried to develop the arrangements so that all the tracks will have a unifying theme, so they'll all stick together as body of work, rather than a bunch of tracks that might or might not have anything in common.

Sunday, November 21
Bound For Glory
8-11 pm
Anabel Taylor Hall 

Monday, November 22
Juna's Cafe
7:00 pm
146 The Commons

Hibernian Weather Channel Productions

Last revised:  May 11, 2005