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MENDO MUSIC

What: Lucia Micarelli in concert with her band at the Mendocino Music Festival

When: 7:30 p.m. July 9

Where: Tent Concert Hall, 45035 Main St., Mendocino

Tickets: $15-$40

To reserve: mendocinomusic.org

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.

By the following year, she had signed up to tour with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra as the featured soloist. That gig led to two world tours with Groban and extensive tours with trumpet player Chris Botti as well as Barbra Streisand. Her first solo album, “Music from a Farther Room,” was released in 2004, followed by “Interlude” in 2006.

In 2009, she suffered a serious hand injury caused by a broken wine glass. That incident, detailed in the PBS special, was one of the reasons she decided to accept the role of Annie in “Treme,” a move that essentially put her on the musical map.

Here is an edited version of a recent interview with Micarelli, who is as warm and down-to-earth as the Crescent City character she brought to life in “Treme” with the help of its creators, David Simon and Eric Overmeyer.

Q. Will your live shows on the tour overlap with the PBS special?

My live program is more like 90 minutes. They played a shortened version, so there will be a lot of the same stuff, but then there will be a whole lot of new stuff.

Q. How did you decide what to perform in your live show?

I think it’s hard, first of all, on the creative side of things to be super motivated and put in all the work if you’re not in love with what you’re doing. And you’re presenting something for the audience, and your goal is to engage and connect. So if you’re not really connected to what you’re doing, it’s very difficult to convince an audience to come along with you.

Originally, I sat down and thought about music that I love, and I realized it’s all over the place. How am I going to make this cohesive? What makes it cohesive is that it tells my musical life, so stories do help to make all these styles and genres make sense.

Q. How would you classify yourself as a musician?

You always think of yourself as whatever you played most when you were studying. I was super classical until I was 18, so I still think of myself as classical.

I think of myself as a violinist, but music these days is all over the place. I have so many friends who are classical musicians who play in contemporary classical ensembles and play with bands and do jazz on the side. Tessa Lark is a monster classical player, but she grew up playing bluegrass.

Q. How did you start singing?

When I did this HBO show called “Treme” for four seasons ... they asked me to sing. So I started singing, and that was really interesting after being an instrumentalist for so long. I do not think of myself as a singer, but I do sing a couple of songs ... I felt like wow, this is so direct. You are using language, and it’s so vulnerable and personal and really fascinating to me, the way that it felt and how it was different.

Q. Will there be any classical music on your show?

My show has a very chamber music vibe. We do a fair bit of quartet movements ... that’s always been my love.

We can split up and do some things with everybody — some things with all the strings, and jazz stuff with the piano and upright bass, and a duo movement with a cellist. The classical elements are well represented. I do Barber’s “Adagio” and a movement of the Ravel Duo, and I was actually thinking of putting in a Beethoven movement.

Q. What did you learn about stage presence from playing with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra?

It was so much fun, and I was so young. I was 18 ... I’m totally classical, then we’re on a massive arena tour, with pyrotechnics, and lasers, and I go out and see 12,000 people. It ended up being really helpful, because then I went on Josh Groban’s tours in theaters and arenas. And that is so different from what we grew up with. All we know is concert halls, and you stand still and you do the thing. And that doesn’t work in a big space like that.

Q. Let’s talk about your hand injury. How did that happen?

I was in Italy doing a private wedding with Chris Botti. After the show, we’re all hanging out backstage, and I had my gown on. I tripped on my dress and landed on the glass. I went to the emergency room, they closed it up, and I went straight home to L.A. My manager took me straight to a hand surgeon who had operated on Heifetz twice. He’s worked on tons of musicians.

So I went straight from the airport to the surgeon, and he said you’re going into surgery in the morning. It turned out that I had severed three nerves but luckily no tendons and nothing that affected mobility ... I still don’t have full feeling, but I do have full mobility.

It was a pretty big surgery, then six to eight weeks in a cast, and then physical therapy. I was real aggressive once I got out of the cast, but it was a couple of months before I could play. Then after that is when I started “Treme.”

Q. How did you learn how to improvise and play jazz on “Treme”?

I had toured with Botti, and I was around jazz, but the things I played weren’t so jazzy. I feel like the hardest thing is that my hands know how to do stuff, but my brain works completely differently. I did come up with a lot of ideas and licks beforehand, and then played around with things in the moment. But I was just dumb about that music, and people took time to sit with me and show me things and work with me. They brought me stacks of CDs.

Q. How did working on “Treme” change your life?

When you’re in a place like that, music has a different meaning than it does when you’re at Juilliard. In New Orleans, it’s everywhere all the time. We do it to celebrate when a baby is born, we do it when someone dies, and we do it when we’re waiting for the food to cook on Sundays.

You realize that is why music exists and is important to human beings. Because of that spirit, and not because we all have to do it in the most perfect way. The spirit is playing on the porch with your family, with your friends, and passing that information along.

That was really eye-opening to me. It really changed how I personally feel about music. Seeing that, it really blew my heart open, and it was like, “Now I get it,” and that’s what I try to recreate in my shows.

Q. What are you looking forward to about performing in Mendocino on your 35th birthday?

I’m excited for it. That’s the ultimate thing that makes me happy and makes all of us happy — sharing music with people and doing it live.

Staff Writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 707-521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @dianepete56.

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