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Judith Linsenberg: On The Record(er) 

At age 5, Judith Linsenberg was faced with a pivotal decision.

"My mother knew somebody whose daughter was taking recorder lessons and asked me if I wanted to take recorder lessons or ice-skating lessons," she recalls. "What did I know at age 5? I said recorder."

Since that fateful choice, Linsenberg has gone on to become "one of the leading exponents of the recorder in the United States," specializing particularly in early music--"medieval, Renaissance, and early baroque music, especially as revived and played on period instruments" ( During her solo and ensemble career, she has performed extensively throughout the U. S. and Europe, thanks to her 'virtuosity' (Washington Post), 'expressivity' (Seattle Post-Intelligencer), 'fearless playing' (SF Classical Voice), and combination of 'masterly control with risk-taking spontaneity' (Early Music)."

  • Courtesy Judith Linsenberg

This Friday Linsenberg will visit Indianapolis as a member of the "premier Baroque ensemble" Musica Pacifica, marking the next of several performances at the 48th Indianapolis Early Music Festival. According to Mark Cudek, artistic director of the festival, the ensemble will "perfectly illustrate" the vast world of early music, performing everything from "pieces by some very prominent composers" to 17th century folk music to "dance music from the 17th century English court" ("more like popular music that people would just dance to").

Early music first "spoke" to Linsenberg while studying as an undergraduate at Princeton University, where she befriended harpsichordist Ed Parmentier. She remembers, "He introduced me to recordings on original instruments, and we would take trips into New York City to go to record stores and buy all these recordings of the great performers of that time." From here, her fascination "took off," as she would eventually attend Stanford University for her doctorate in early music.

Since that point, Linsenberg admits her path to becoming a successful performer in the "niche market" of early music has been a challenge.

"You're always out pounding the pavement, trying to get gigs and trying to convince regular chamber music presenters that early music is a vibrant enterprise and that people really enjoy it, because they do," she says. "A lot of times people think, 'Oh early music, all that old stuff that's so boring,' but I think our concerts are never boring. They're always exciting, and there's a lot of virtuosity and there's a lot of great interplay among all the instruments. People who have just been brought up with mainstream chamber music or mainstream classical music don't necessarily know that right off the bat."

Being a recorder player doesn't make things any easier on Linsenberg either. Nevertheless, she finds a way to make ends meet, whether she's teaching at a summer workshop or working as artistic director of Musica Pacifica.

"It's kind of piecing together a living from a variety of jobs really, but it's interesting. Never dull," she reflects.

  • Courtesy Judith Linsenberg

Recently, Linsenberg has also been exploring more folk and world music as well. In fact, while attending Lark in the Morning Music Celebration in California (now known as Lark Camp World Music, Song & Dance Celebration), she met Ryan Francesconi, an arranger who connected her with Drag City Records' Joanna Newsom. After appearing on the indie songwriter's 2010 triple-album, Have One on Me, Linsenberg was also given the opportunity to perform at Newsom's wedding, where she married Emmy and Golden Globe-winning actor Andy Samberg.

Although early music may be an unknown world to many, both Cudek and Linsenberg hope new ears can appreciate these historic tunes just as much as they do.

"My ultimate goal is just to bring the music that I'm absolutely in love with to larger and larger audiences, because it's very engaging music, it's powerful emotionally, and it's very accessible," Cudek says. "This is a kind of music that if you don't even like classical music, a lot of these concerts you might really enjoy -- if you like folk music, or if you like jazz or if you like bluegrass. There are common ties in this music to lots of styles."


Friday, June 20: Musica Pacifica

Sunday, June 22: Quicksilver

Friday, June 27: Pallade Musica- Grand Prize winners of the Early Music America Baroque Performance competition in October 2012, this quartet features "four of Montreal's most promising Early Music performers," according to Cudek.  "They will bring a really, really high energy level and a lot of improvisation to their performance, as well as being absolutely, mind-blowingly virtuosic, so I'm thrilled to have them."

Sunday, June 29: Baltimore Consort

Friday, July 11: Peabody Consort- Founded by Cudek himself in 1996, this select group of Early Music majors from the Peabody Conservatory's Early Music Department includes Brian Kay, the only two time winner of The Lute Society of America's national Emerging Artist lute competition.

Sunday, July 13: Hesperus

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About The Author

Seth Johnson

Seth Johnson

Since high school, Seth Johnson has been drawn to telling compelling stories through the lens of journalism. A 2013 graduate from Ball State University’s News program, he has especially discovered a love for music journalism, particularly connecting to local music stories in an effort to enlighten others on Indianapolis’... more

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