A California native, Laura Risk began playing Scottish fiddle music as a teenager. Her love of traditional fiddling has led her into a rich journey of performing and teaching the beautiful and diverse repertoires of Scotland, Cape Breton and, most recently, Quebec, where she now lives. As evidenced in several highly-praised albums, her playing is extremely expressive and versatile, ranging from elegant music composed for 18th-century Scottish drawing rooms to driving strathspeys and reels suitable for a Cape Breton dance floor.
Laura tours extensively and has performed with many notable names in Celtic and American traditional music, including Ensemble Galilei, The John Whelan Band, Darol Anger's 'World of Fiddles', Helicon, Hesperus, Scottish fiddler Alasdair Fraser, Irish singers Aoife Clancy and Aine Minogue, and American roots band Cordelia's Dad. She has appeared at the Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow and at many of North America's most prestigious acoustic music festivals, including Celtic Colours (Cape Breton), City Stages (Birmingham, AL), the Summer Solstice Festival (Los Angeles), Memoires et Racines (Quebec), Jacob's Pillow (MA), and the Newport, Winnipeg, and Philadelphia Folk Festivals. Laura currently performs solo, in the duos Greenfire (with hammer dulcimer player Ken Kolodner) and Celtic Dialogue (with pianist Jacqueline Schwab), and with percussive dancer Sandy Silva.
Laura's new solo recording, The Merry Making, features the dance music of Scotland, Cape Breton, Quebec, New England, and Ireland. Joining her are Dennis Cahill (guitar), Susie Petrov (piano), and Chris Layer (flutes, bagpipes). "Capturing a glimpse of emotions seldom expressed on any instrument, Risk bows the strings with a delicate grace yet draws unbridled passion from them," writes Folktales.
On her 1999 recording Celtic Dialogue, -- named one of the "Top Ten CDs Of The Year" by the Boston Globe -- Laura joined forces with pianist Jacqueline Schwab in a musical exploration of the classical/traditional crossover in 18th-century Scotland. The duo's unusual approach to this rarely-heard repertoire combines scholarly research with modern improvisations informed by a traditional sensibility. "Beautifully performed," says The Washington Post. Declares WBUR (Boston), "[Celtic Dialogue] presents both artists at their ground-breaking best, very traditional yet compositionally elegant and provocatively improvisational... Equal parts classical chamber set and wild Celtic ceilidh..."
Laura also works with hammer dulcimer player Ken Kolodner in the Celtic duo Greenfire. Their first album, Walking Stones, sold over 30,000 copies and was the Allegro Corporation's #1 World Music Title for over three months. In October 1998 it was named one of BMG's Top 15 Bestsellers (Encore Record Club). "The beauty and the beat of Celtic music are always well-served," says The Washington Post of Greenfire, citing Risk's "bittersweet lyricism... [and] aggressive attack." Greenfire performances include guest artist appearances with the Baltimore Choral Arts Society and with Helicon at Baltimore's Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. The former concert, which included a suite of traditional tunes arranged for Greenfire and string orchestra, was broadcast to over 500,000 viewers in the Washington DC. area on WMAR TV (ABC).
Laura is known as an outstanding teacher, able to inspire students at any level. She has taught Scottish fiddling every summer at the Valley of the Moon Scottish Fiddling School since 1994 and at Fiddlekids and the Swannanoa Gathering since 2000. She has also taught at the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes, Lark in the Morning, Rocky Mountain Fiddle Camp, and the Southern California Suzuki Institute. In addition, she recently completed five years as an Instructor of Fiddling at Wellesley College, where she founded the college's first Celtic music ensemble, the Fiddleheads. Laura holds a B.A. in Applied Math from the University of California at Berkeley.