SFJAZZ.org | QA With Jenny Scheinman

On The Corner Masthead

From Bill Frisell to House of Faern:
A Q&A with JENNY SCHEINMAN

October 4, 2021 | by Rusty Aceves

Jenny Scheinman

We're very much looking forward to the October 14 double bill focused on Northern California string music featuring the San Francisco String Trio and House of Fearn, led by the remarkable violinist Jenny Scheinman. We asked Jenny to tell us how she's doing now that live music is returning, and what audiences will hear on 10/14. 

Q: How have you been doing, personally and/or professionally, during the pandemic and so much global upheaval?

A: I took a big break. I didn't do socials, didn't talk to my manager, didn't worry about what was next. I was so lucky to be living where I do, in rural northern California. Rent free, close to wild wide open spaces, horses, surf, family, and my two hilarious children who were very excited to have me home. I enrolled in a poetry intensive with our local poet laureate Jerry Martien, re-read (and watched) Shakespeare, savored every novel Jesmyn Ward has written, Louise Erdrich, George Saunders, Teju Cole... so many novels! I walked my mother-in-law around the Arcata Marsh every day slowly slowly and even slower... And there was some music. More than some! I met with my practice buddy three times a week (12 tone rows, subdivisions, Skippy in all keys!), set up weekly string quartet sessions with some local symphony players (a dream come true!), spent some weeks at a campsite with Bruce Cockburn, and was able to meet and write with House Of Faern... The election was intense. I nearly got tendonitis writing postcards. And the continuing global health, environmental, and political crisis is more than worrisome — it's scary! But I would say that on a personal level the shutdown it has realigned my priorities. I feel older now. I have more to give. And more to be grateful for.

Q: Now that live performances in front of audiences are coming back, how do you feel about it?

A: Every gig I've had since the shutdown has seemed momentous, and the audience's desire for music has been unquenchable. I'm being very cautious about my exposure. My daughter is still too young to be vaccinated and we have elders in our bubble, so I'm picking and choosing my gigs carefully. I must admit that life OFF the road was pretty luxurious and I entertained ideas of alternate careers. But the stage is a magical place and every show since the shutdown has made it clear that performance is my calling.

Q: We’re really excited to have your House of Fearn project in Miner Auditorium along with the San Francisco String Trio. What can you tell us about the project and this performance?

A: This is my shutdown band. We wrote and rehearsed this music exclusively in the wilds of Humboldt County, in campsites, on back porches, surrounded by children and livestock! We literally have been playing for the birds! The music has internalized and reflected that space, those shades of light, and dust, tendrils, and a desire to survive. Imagine us oustide, acoustic, with dusty feet in swimsuits, or in breath vapor halos in puffers and wool blankets.

Jenny Scheinman with John Shifflett and Scott Amendola in the Joe Henderson Lab, February 2017. Photo: Scott Chernis

Q: We’ve presented you with Bill Frisell, Nels Cline, Scott Amendola, Myra Melford, Steven Bernstein, and Regina Carter (and we had to close for the pandemic right before the scheduled performance by your Parlour Games project with Allison Miller). Is there anything that sticks out to you regarding your experiences at SFJAZZ as a performer?

A: Tremendous hospitality and respect. Great staff. Great conversations - Dee Dee Bridgwater! Tom Waits! Josh Redman!... Everyone has been kind and professional.... anectodes?.... hmm.... I played with Bill Frisell at the Miner when the electricity went off in downtown SF. We continued, acoustically, in the dark. My late then-ancient friend Bud was carried by EMTs from the top balcony to the emergency exit... I played Lovers with Nels Cline — a mini-orchestral eruption of LOVE, and one of my favorite albums... I played with Regina Carter in the first many more nights of jazz violin celebration. And going WAY back, SFJAZZ hosted some of my earliest concerts as a truly local college-attending musician with my band, as well as with the Hot Club Of San Francisco.

Q: What’s on the horizon for you?

A: I hope this new post pandemic pace sticks. I want to quit my hussle addition and take more time with my shows. Present a few more expansive projects. I will always have my beloved bands to tour and record, but I'm eager to engage a few more senses. This is all about building community, opening hearts, fostering curiosity and conversation, offering respite and rejuvenation, and celebrating this magnificent life. I'm middle aged now. Free at last!

Jenny Scheinman and House of Faern featuring Beth Schenck, Matt Wrobel, John Wood, and Todd Sickafoose perform in a double bill with San Francisco String Trio (Mads Tolling, Mimi Fox, and Jeff Denson), 10/14, 7:30PM. Tickets and more information here.

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