Ida Jo: Living Her Life by Making Music She Loves

Features 13 Jun 2014

Ida Jo current pic

Ida Jo:  Living Her Life by Making Music She Loves                       

By Teri Barr

I want to make good citizens. If children hear fine music from the day of their birth and learn to play it themselves, they develop sensitivity, discipline, and endurance. They get a beautiful heart.” –Shin’ichi Suzuki


It’s something I discovered while researching the method behind the way Ida Jo mastered playing a violin. And even though Shin’ichi Suzuki shared this quote about developing his “Suzuki-Method” of teaching music shortly after World War II, his thought on creating a beautiful heart describes the blooming of this Madison-based musician, as if he wrote it just for her.

Ida Jo picked up the popular style of learning while very young. Put simply, it supports the idea any child can learn by ear, using language as an example. But for music, it means having the right size instrument, and an environment to thrive in. Ida Jo has been thriving with a violin in her hand, from the day she got it.

Now, she’s ready to release her fifth album with an intimate celebration at Crescendo Espresso Bar and Music Cafe on Monroe Street in Madison, on Saturday, June 14 at 8 p.m. The new C.D. follows a multi-award winning 2013, and Ida Jo took time to answer some questions about her success, the recent recording process, and why she wants even more to be proud of in the future. 

Teri: You have been on a whirlwind musical journey. How are you doing, especially with your fifth album in the last five years officially being released?

Ida Jo: Things are going well! I’m excited for the new, big record to be out. I actually kept things pretty low key with 2013’s “For Better For Worse,” and even took a bit of a break at the end of last year. But I’m rested up, inspired, and looking forward to really getting back out there.

Teri: Well, you remained active in our eyes by allowing us to watch so much of the process while your were recording your new album“The Current.” Did you enjoy sharing your efforts, along with using a Kickstarter campaign to fund it?

Ida Jo: I love that Kickstarter creates a community around the music. Instead of working in private, and releasing a record once everything is said and done, it really gets everyone involved. I posted photos and videos during the recording process, as well as writing blogs focused on how the record was coming together. I found so many people responding by saying they’re interested in the creative process, and this ended up being a perfect way to share it!

Ida Jo young picTeri: Share your background in music. Did you start playing as a child? And how did you choose the violin?

Ida Jo: I started playing violin when I was 7 years old. I was around music a lot, both live and recorded, growing up in Duluth, Minnesota. I studied classical violin all the way through college, graduating with a degree in violin performance. But I’ve always played in other styles as well, such as Finnish folk music, and Texas old-style fiddle.

Teri: When did you realize you wanted to make music your career and how do you put a dream like that into motion?

Ida Jo: I actually wanted to take violin lessons at age 6. My mom waited for about a year to make sure it wasn’t just a passing idea. And after that time, I still wanted to play, so she signed me up for the Suzuki violin method of learning. I guess I’ve always known I wanted to play, and have never been deterred. I’ve also never been one of those people that loves classical music above all other styles, however, I always knew I would study it through college. I felt I would be limited later in life if I didn’t further develop my technique as an artist.

Teri: You mentioned Duluth and it’s early influence, and you’ve toured around the world. What keeps you in Madison?

Ida Jo: I am from the wonderful city of Duluth! It’s a beautiful place and someday I may move back. For now, I enjoy Madison. It’s a nice size. Not too big, but not too small. And because of both the University and the Capital, most people are educated and really driven to succeed. There are interesting events that either happen here to come to Madison, and it’s big enough to support touring music and theater. I enjoy the music scene. It’s always tough starting out, but I feel in general it’s a pretty supportive community.

Teri: You feel supported here, which is great. Does it help you keep your spirits up for writing new music, playing, and finding the right venues?

Ida Jo: It really comes down to me, and not getting in my own way. In terms of writing, when I’m open to the inspiration, I’ll call it infinite. For the most part I don’t write unless I’m feeling drawn to do so, and luckily that’s the case often for me. Playing live gets harder to keep up. I absolutely love playing live, and I would say it’s my favorite part, but there is so much else that goes into it, which can be draining. But, I really do feel like this is all a calling. Good days or bad, I don’t feel like I have much of a choice in continuing. Music has chosen me, and it’s the reason I’m here!

Teri:  Lucky for us, especially those who’ve experienced your live performance! And you’ve received some nice accolades for your work, but what makes you most proud of being recognized as a musician?

Ida Jo: Well, I was named Wisconsin Area Music Industry / WAMI Female Vocalist of the Year in 2013! And shortly after that award, I was lucky enough to take home three Madison Area Music Association / MAMA awards, including Folk/Americana Performer, Folk/Americana Record (“Uncharted”), and Strings Instrumentalist. I still think I was most surprised by the WAMI! I was shocked to be nominated, and certainly wasn’t expecting to win. I didn’t go to the award ceremony, and instead made plans to be in Minnesota to celebrate my birthday with my grandparents. Then during dinner, I checked my phone and a few people texted or called saying, “You won!!” I couldn’t believe it, and was so happy I was able to be with my grandparents at that moment, and to share the news with them.


Ida Jo mama awardTeri: After winning these awards, you are probably looked at as being an inspiration, too. What would you tell someone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

Ida Jo: Practice (laughter)!

Teri: We touched on making music your career, and I’m sure you know there are few others in this area who are able to do it full-time, what about you?

Ida Jo: I am a full time musician! I split my time between practicing, writing, booking, promoting, recording and performing. During the school year I teach a private high school female a cappella group, Midnight Voices. ( I sang in an a cappella group in college, and love passing on my knowledge to the group, along with helping create that memorable musical experience for them.

Teri: Are you happy with where you are in your career, and what are you looking forward to in your future?

Ida Jo: I’m happy with the progress I’ve made with it. I started from the bottom about three years ago. I’m also happy with my records, songs, and how my style has evolved. I do plan to continue to put out new music, perform, and hopefully keep growing– both personally and professionally.

Teri: O.K., final question, and always one of my favorites. What’s something your “fans” may be surprised to learn about you?

Ida Jo: I’m a pretty introverted person. I like to have a lot of time to myself to do my own thing. I’m also an only child, which means I really like to have my own space.


Dates for Ida Jo’s 2014 summer tour, including stops in Madison on June 14 for her C.D. release, Middleton on June 15, Chicago, and Fitchburg in July for a music yoga workshop, can all be found on her website:

And you can watch or listen to her music on YouTube:

← Make Music Madison: It’s About Community And the Winner Is… Part One →

About the author

Teri Barr

20+ years of experience as a communicator, writer, producer, editor, innovator, collaborator, instructor, trainer, leader, motivator, freelancer, speaker, interviewer, promoter and volunteer.

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