Since winning NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest in 2016, Duluth violinist and singer Gaelynn Lea has landed gigs across the country, including a TEDx Talk at Yale University and in-studio performances at public radio stations. Her venues have ranged from schools to restaurants to a decommissioned Masonic temple. Last summer she played with Murder of Crows bandmate Alan Sparhawk at the Kennedy Center, and this Friday, she’ll be playing for the U.S. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.
Though the performance won’t be open to the public, the State Department will be broadcasting it on Facebook Live at 11 a.m. central time.
Speaking from the road on her way to a Cleveland show, Lea said she’s not positive how she got the State Department’s attention, though it may have been at a D.C. house show earlier this year, or her upcoming performance at the Rare Impact Awards show in D.C.
“I don’t know how it ended up happening, but I’m really excited about it,” she said. “I’m excited they’re airing it on Facebook Live because I think, for people with disabilities — I mean, it’s not open to the public anyway, but even if it was — I like that they did that, because I think it’s important for people to make music accessible to everyone, and the internet is a good way to do that.”
Lea said she’s also looking forward to meeting other advocates for the disabled during her time in D.C., some of whom will be in the audience.
“I really like to meet other advocates. It’s not like you randomly find them on the street,” she said. “After my performance […] at least part of it will be question and answer, and then after that we’ll be going out to lunch to get to know them a little better. And that’s cool because any connection you can make in advocacy is really neat.”
Once she’s done touring, she said she hopes to make serious progress on a new album, for which she’s collaborating with Minneapolis musicians Al Church and Dave Mehling. In the meantime, you can catch Lea and Church playing together on the Duluth Dylan Fest’s Blood on the Tracks Express.
Jackie Renzetti is a recent journalism and political science graduate from the University of Minnesota. She is also a proud Minnesota Daily and Radio K alum.