If you come to one of her shows, chances are, you might first hear the delicate nuance of fingerstyle folk guitar. You might watch her wail out a blues tune, dragging a brass slide across the strings of her Dobro lapsteel. And in between songs, you might hear a ghost story or three, spoken over the sounds of soft conversation.
From an early age, Virginia Kathryn started performing in coffeehouses and restaurants. Playing traditional music gave her the grounding to start writing her own material. Her love of folklore and literature has led her to study the stories behind the songs, from ghost stories of the British Isles to trickster spirits and legends of the idealized American past. Music has an incredible power for myth-making – think of the songs you learned to sing as a child, lullabies and nursery rhymes. The characters in those songs likely live on in your memory for many years after you last sang them.
Over the years, she has done original compositions for local filmmakers and videographers, recorded medieval music for a traveling exhibit, played house concerts, and performed her own songs in the corners of neighborhood bars. Still, it’s the stories that bring meaning to the music, whether with words or without.
In 2016, she was selected as a participant for the Silkroad Ensemble’s Global Musician Workshop, a project initiated by Yo-Yo Ma bringing together musicians from around the world to perform traditional music in innovative ways. This experience inspired her to write about folk music from a new perspective. She was invited the following year to speak and perform at TEDxUNO. There, she made a case for folk music as a medium through which contemporary stories can be told: turning back to history to express the voice of a global community. There’s something a song can say about the human condition in a way that no other artistic mediums can. She believes that we have the power to create new myths through song.
In 2018, she traveled to the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York to explore songwriting and acoustic guitar at Richard Thompson’s Frets and Refrains workshop, where she studied with Patty Griffin, Tony McManus, and other luminaries in traditional and acoustic music.
One of her greatest joys when performing is seeing the way that songs can touch people from a distance of decades or centuries, returning through her own contemporary musical voice. In her original songs, she tries to capture moments in time, and the brilliant, fleeting emotions that can accompany even the most seemingly insignificant events. Music, for her, has been a bridge – between performer and audience, between adolescence and adulthood, between her experiences and the wider world.
She was nominated for Best Blues Artist in 2017 by the Omaha Arts and Entertainment Awards committee. In 2018, she was nominated for Best Folk/Americana.
Virginia Kathryn released her debut album, Vintage Sepia, in June 2018. You can find it on CD Baby, Amazon, and all streaming services.