Jen Starsinic is a singer/songwriter, composer, multi-instrumentalist, arts educator, and community organizer from Harrisburg, PA and currently living in Nashville, TN. Her work has been featured in American Songwriter, NPR’s Here & Now, and on NBC’s Today Show.
Her work is informed by the power of personal storytelling, abstract sound and language, repetitive structures of minimalist composition and traditional folk music, and the celebration of music creation and performance as a communal, human, and participatory practice.
Of Starsinic’s music, critics say: “a striking vocalist… all-encompassing,”; “a musical setting that is at once deeply familiar and stunningly new,”; and “there is a blissful aura that surrounds Starsinic’s sound, making for one of 2020’s must-hear albums.”
A professional violinist since 14, she played over 200 hundred shows before age 18 as a fiddle player in regional bluegrass bands in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. Her youth was otherwise spent hanging out in central-PA ambient rock bands and sneaking off to music festivals in West Virginia for trance-y, all-night old time jams. She credits much of her early success to her ability to access instruments, music programs, and lessons — priorities in her father’s house informed by his upbringing in the working-class Slovenian and Croation immigrant community in Steelton, PA based around the Bethlehem Steel Company steel mill.
Seeking to further her abilities, she entered Berklee College of Music as part of the then newly formed American Roots Music Program, studying violin performance and songwriting and graduating summa cum laude while working in the Stan Getz Library as a catalog librarian assistant.
She was a 2012 winner of the BMI John Lennon Scholarship, followed by similar recognition from the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival in 2014 while touring nationally as a violinist in several Americana bands. In 2014, she released The Flood and the Fire — her critically-acclaimed debut as a solo artist, featuring cameos by Molly Tuttle (IBMA’s Guitarist of the Year) and clawhammer banjoist Allison de Groot— the same year as relocating to Tennessee — and embarked on her first east coast solo tour.
In 2016, disillusioned and burnt out by maltreatment as a female musician and by pervasive inequities in the music industry as well as the local Nashville community, she co-founded Girls Write Nashville, a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to building mentorship, positive community and empowered expression for teen artists. The organization provides a safe space within the local music community for adolescent participation and mentorship, advocates for the cultural enfranchisement of youth female creators, and provides equitable education opportunities within the framework of Creative Youth Development.
As executive artistic director, Starsinic wrote the community-based hybrid music education and social-emotional learning curriculum that serves hundreds of youth and adult artists in Nashville and leads a team of 16 teaching artists and mentors in Nashville. She has raised over $500,000 in support of the organization’s work which is currently funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts and was a 2021 semi-finalist for the Lewis Prize for Music.
In 2020 she released Bad Actor, a deeply personal collection of songs that Starsinic also co-produced, a role she had felt shut out of in the past. Part indie rock, part ambient dream-pop, part folk song, the EP was described by PopMatters, American Songwriter, and other outlets as “poignant, intimate, and stunning” with reviewers commenting:
“Bad Actor is equal parts coming-of-age soundtrack and personal battle cry from a songwriter who refuses to be defined by her past work. There’s not a single fiddle part here. Instead, there’s a lush, newly-expanded sound from a musician once hailed as the next big voice in folk — and despite the title, Bad Actor is pretty damn cinematic.”
In 2021, she completed the original song and score for Let Them Go, a documentary about medical discrimination against adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities .
She lives in Nashville, TN and is working on her next album (and other projects) in addition to serving as Girls Write Nashville’s current Executive Artistic Director and the host of synthquest, a biweekly improvisatory ambient livestream and podcast.