- The Hamptons
- Los Angeles
- New York
- Orange County
- San Diego
- San Francisco
- Washington, D.C.
Michael McCarthy | Photo: Kate Warren | April 30, 2013
Daisy Castro performs music that delivers spring’s finest emotional roller-coaster ride.
Musical prodigies are everywhere. From reality TV to social media, we witness these gifted musicians playing with the whip-smart grace of Amadeus and the dedication of maestros. And then there’s Daisy Castro, brilliant and devoted to her craft, but also possessing something more, making this 16-year-old violinist’s work transcendent: passion.
Castro, who is a Strathmore artist-in-residence, plays what is known as gypsy jazz, which bubbled up from the Paris streets in the 1930s. Django Reinhardt (guitar) and Stéphane Grappelli (violin) created the music, and the sound faded and limped along after the war, until being rediscovered and harbored by a small group of aficionados.
Castro unearthed the music 10 years ago on a family trip to France and began performing the notes—both languid and exultant—after her parents found a little violin in an antiques shop. While she’s been a musician for a decade, she’s played the gypsy style for just three years. “This music affects me on many different levels,” says Castro. “It has a dark quality to it sometimes, as well as a lot of passion. It makes audiences feel something, from melancholy to sheer happiness.”
She estimates that 60 percent of the audiences who see her perform have not heard of gypsy jazz. But “there’s a small following that’s growing, and a lot more people in America have recently discovered it, and they want to play it themselves,” says Castro.
Of course, sitting among the greats will help when learning the rich style. Castro says her favorite place to perform is June’s Festival Django Reinhardt in Samois- sur-Seine, France. She picks up tips by playing with world-class musicians during impromptu jam sessions backstage. Her new album, Déviation, showcases those incredible skills, and she’ll support the recording by touring this spring in New England. An exhibit of Castro’s art—hung in the mansion’s gallery—will complement her Strathmore appearance. Media include ink, acrylics and, yes, coffee. “There are 13 pieces for each of the songs on my album,” she says.
Lest you think this Maryland teen listens exclusively to gypsy jazz, she also likes international pop and indie rock (including postmodern alt-rockers Silversun Pickups), albeit leavened with plenty of tunes from the late American jazz artists Sidney Bechet and Chet Baker. This might explain why Castro’s interpretation of gypsy jazz—long the purview of men—sounds so free and layered with the unabashed spirit of youth. “I don’t feel the need to do what has already been done so well,” she says. “I have an edgier style. I just take what I learn and make it my own.” Appearing May 8 and 22, The Mansion at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, Bethesda, Md., strathmore.org