Music prodigy Eva Scow
A versatile artist with a passion for various genres, Scow performs with the bands The Experience and Espacio. Photo by Owen Gailar
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Music prodigy Eva Scow
by Jeffery Williams
Eva Scow views music as a universal language that crosses barriers of geography, culture and age.
“Music creates such gratifying and incredible conversations,” the 26-year-old mandolinist said. “It’s so stimulating artistically.”
Scow is considered by many to be “a gem of the Fresno music scene,” says Cynthia Green, owner of Landmark Restaurant in the heart of the Tower District, where Scow frequently performs.
“She is internationally recognized for her amazing talents in mandolin.”
Scow performs at venues around Fresno a couple nights a week and is a mainstay of Art Hop and Jazz Hop. A versatile musician with a passion for various genres, she performs funk, soul, jazz and reggae with the band The Experience and Brazilian and Latin jazz with the group Espacio.
“Music awakens and stimulates me,” Scow said. “If I ever get a little bored, the endless new challenges and directions music can take me is re-energizing.”
Observing a few minutes of her expertise on YouTube is a worthy use of time. One can readily see how Scow feels and expresses her music. The precision, clarity and quickness of her fingerpicking work are sights to behold, but it is the unique blend of sounds she seems to effortlessly and spontaneously create that makes the biggest impression.
When Scow is not practicing and polishing her craft, she teaches for the Milestones Youth Jazz Workshop and the Central Unified stringed orchestra program.
“I love the way music affects and impacts people. And now teaching has given me another way to express music,” she said. “It’s been very rewarding.”
Jim Page, director of the Milestones workshop, which serves about 50 students each year, said, “Eva is a great addition to our faculty. Her musical knowledge is amazing, she relates well to the faculty and students, and the kids love her. She is a fantastic instructor who inspires.”
“I hope my music and time can positively influence others,” she said.
Scow’s musical roots are in the isolated foothill community of Balch Camp. Her parents, John and Coco, introduced Scow to the piano and violin when she was 3 1/2 years old. Her training in classical music included traveling to Fresno once a week.
“My father had an orchestra background and directed my instruction. My mother strongly encouraged me by driving me to Fresno once a week for lessons,” she recalled. “It was a team effort. I am so grateful to them both.”
Her parents decided to move to Fresno when Scow was 9. The move initiated a shift that took her away from classical music performed on the violin and piano to bluegrass, Brazilian and other styles of jazz played on the mandolin.
Artists near and far became her music teachers. She said the Fresno Folklore Society provided her with significant support and encouragement by allowing her to join informal jam sessions at a young age. She immersed herself in the Bay Area acoustic community and got to know Jerry Douglas, Edgar Meyer and Bela Fleck. Particularly inspiring was a trip to Brazil where she began a lifetime love affair with the complexities and challenges of Brazilian music.
By the time she entered high school, Scow regularly performed at paid gigs, weddings and parties. She graduated early in 2006 so she could participate in a week-long workshop with 15 other young artists that culminated in a performance at Carnegie Hall with bassist Edgar Meyer. The experience inspired Scow to pursue music as a career.
Scow has since been featured on numerous projects. She played on the album “Sharon by the Sea” with guitarist Dusty Brough, recorded “Tone Poets” with Grateful Dead mandolinist David Grisman, and partnered with Anthony Wilson Nonet on the CD “Power of Nine.” More recently, she worked on an album with singer Sarah Cabral and a Brazilian band.
Scow said the mandolin has a rich history. The genesis of the stringed instrument, which is a member of the lute family, dates back to classical Italy. Beethoven and Mozart are known to have composed music for the Neapolitan mandolin. The instrument has also played a prominent role in the music of Ireland, Russia, Greece, Portugal, North America and Latin America, particularly Brazil.
Scow’s passion leans most clearly towards the musical innovations and complexities of Brazilian music.
“There [are] so many styles such as choro, samba, bossa nova and contemporary jazz,” she said of the music of Latin America’s largest country.
While she has done some writing, she is most interested in creating new arrangements for others’ songs. She said she embraces the challenge of making a cover song better in concert by improvising in the moment.
“That spontaneous conversation with the other musicians keeps the creativity alive and fresh,” she said.
Scow has often been asked why she remains in Fresno when there are more opportunities in the Bay Area and L.A.
“I say Fresno is my home and I have received a great deal of support here,” she said. “Fresno has a sophisticated audience that appreciates different styles. There are little micro groups of music styles here that not every city has.
“I’m grateful for a receptive audience. The feedback is really important to me. ”
Scow’s dream? “To keep doing what I love and travel to new places with my instrument, starting with a Mandolin Festival in France,” she said.
Scow will be performing with Espacio at the Jazz and Soul Festival at the African American Museum in Fresno on Saturday, April 18, at 4 p.m. For more information about her schedule, visit evascowmusic.com.
Jeffery Williams has been a high school English teacher for 27 years. He is also a freelance writer and the award-winning author of the novel “Pirate Spirit.”