Lucia Micarelli is best known for her starring role as the bohemian, street-busking violinist Annie on the HBO series “Treme,” which told the story of life in post-Katrina New Orleans through the lives of its scrappy residents and rich gumbo of music.
It was Micarelli’s first shot at acting, but for the Juilliard-trained violinist, the real challenge was rewiring her brain so she could jam with folk/rock legends such as Steve Earle, Shawn Colvin and John Hiatt.
“Musically, it exposed me to much more stuff,” Micarelli said in a phone interview from her home in Los Angeles. “All of a sudden I got exposed to what I thought was New Orleans music, and then I realized there’s 90 different kinds. I sat in with all kinds of bands, and it threw my musical world open.”
During the four-year series, Earle played Harley, a friend and mentor to Annie who kept pushing her to front her own band, start singing and write songs. Meanwhile, off-screen, Earle was pushing Micarelli in the same direction.
“He was super supportive and encouraging,” she said. “The first time I ever wrote a melody to a song, he wrote lyrics for it (“After Mardi Gras”) and put it on his album (2013’s “The Low Highway.”)
Now, only a handful of years later, Micarelli has come into her own with a PBS special based on her live show, “An Evening with Lucia Micarelli,” which premiered on PBS stations across the country in March.
Although Micarelli has gone on tour with many crossover classical artists — from progressive rock band Trans-Siberian Orchestra to classical crossover vocalist Josh Groban — this will be her first full tour as the soloist.
“It’s a little surreal and a little overwhelming,” she said of the tour, which ends in New York on Nov. 10. “There’s a PBS tie-in with some of the venues, so people who watch my show, if they like it and want to contribute to PBS, at a certain pledge level they can get exclusive tickets to the live show.”
Micarelli and her back-up band — a violinist (her husband), violist, cellist, bass player and pianist — will perform on Monday, July 9, at the Mendocino Music Festival after opening the tour on Sunday at Stanford’s Bing Concert Hall. The repertoire includes everything from fiddle and folk music to pop renditions of classical songs and jazz classics. Micarelli plays the violin, sings and narrates the musical journey.
“I don’t tell my whole life story, but the stuff I have programmed has ended up very varied and eclectic,” she said. “I really try to only program stuff that I really love ... so everything has a meaning, and I do tell a lot of stories about how the music came into my life.”
Micarelli has been holding a violin under her chin for so long it has become almost like another appendage. Born in Queens, New York, she started playing at age 3, moved to Hawaii at age 5 and a year later, made her debut with the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra.
The daughter of a Korean mother and an Italian father, she was accepted into the Juilliard School of Music’s Pre-College Division at age 11, where she studied with renowned teacher Dorothy DeLay. After combining lessons with concert appearances across the country, she left Juilliard at age 17 to attend the Manhattan School of Music, where she studied with Israeli-American violinist Pinchas Zukerman. Curious about other genres of music, she also started sitting in with local jazz and rock bands in New York clubs.