This page is an informal chat About me.  For a traditional formal third person bio, go to the Press Kit Page (coming soon).  Or send a request to me at rootmusicstudio@gmail.com.  Thanks.

My name is Jen Clare Paulson and I am a musician currently living in Madison, WI.  I grew up outside of Chicago in Elmhurst, IL.  You can find a detailed list of current projects on the Projects page, but in a nutshell I am a professional violist who also plays violin, fiddle, and a little:  koto, tenor guitar, tenor banjo, octofone, mandolin and ukulele.  The bulk of my work is in the classical world, in regional orchestral and chamber music settings.  I am a member of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Green Bay Symphony Orchestra.  I also collaborate with some of Chicago’s best improvisers and composers in several free music projects including Kyle Bruckmann’s Wrack and Ken Vandermark’s Audio One.  I play fiddle with Milkhouse Radio, a bluegrass band here in Madison and occasionally sit in with Off the Porch.  I have always included teaching in my work load, in the private studio lesson setting as well as workshops and masterclasses.  I am currently teaching at Madison Music Foundry and out of Red Door Studio.  I also work at Spruce Tree Music and Repair in Madison where I am an apprentice, learning to repair and restore new and vintage string instruments.

Here is a list of experiences that have influenced me as a musician:

Early on (1975-1993)

-I started playing violin when I was 4, and was a member of a tight-knit Suzuki group for many years.  I switched to viola the first time I tried one.  I studied with Jane Kohnke, Gwen Kinyon and Peter Slowik.

-I attended Birch Creek Music Center in Egg Harbor, WI as a violist in the orchestra session when I was 14.  Birch Creek is a farm that Jim and Fran Dutton converted into a performance center (the barn) and a music camp designed to give students the experience of being a professional musician.  Students play right alongside the pro’s in nightly concerts.  I asked to stay the rest of the summer for the big band/jazz sessions and worked as a member of the kitchen and maintenance staff.  That led to 10 more summers as staff member and musician up in Door County.  I lived in Woody’s Woodshed (christened after Woody Herman brought The Herd to the barn some time before my tenure there), just big enough for a bed and dresser, and learned to crowd-cheer-loud-whistle in the back of the barn cheering on particularly good solos during the jazz sessions.  I met some Chicago musicians who would influence my musical path a great deal.

Carrie Biolo was my partner in crime up at Birch Creek.  An accomplished and adventuresome percussionist, she introduced me to her colleagues, many of Chicago’s well-known improvisers and composers: Fred Lonberg-Holm, Michael Zerang, Guillermo Gregorio and Jeff Kowalkowski among others.  I have since worked with these musicians and many others I have met through them in Chicago’s improvised/experimental/free music scene.

Matt Mantell was the violist at Birch Creek who taught me what a great section leader should be, and served as a mentor in the world of freelance classical music.


– I attended Augustana College in Rock Island, IL where I was a music major on viola and  a member of the Japanese koto ensemble.  Elizabeth Falconer was the director of the koto ensemble.  Her guidance in my studies of Japanese music and the example she set as an artist and teacher influenced me greatly.  My viola studies with Deborah  Dakin were rigorous but I found adventurous programming and contemporary music with Liz in the koto program supported by the venerable, forward thinking and groundbreaking Sawai Koto School in Japan.  The ensemble was fortunate to have the opportunity to perform with Sawai Kazue on several occasions while I was a member, learning her “sweat good” and bass-koto-string-breaking style of performance first hand. (This is her first-class ensemble from Japan playing Homura with her at the Moers Jazz Festivel, including Liz.  This is the piece we got to play with her.)  Her dynamic intensity and passion were balanced perfectly by her husband Sawai Tadao’s grace, elegance and expressive control.

– I was also a member of Bev, one of the Quad Cities favorite “pop-ternative” bands in the mid-nineties.  I formed deep creative I’m-in-the-band bonds with bandmates Jason, Jason, John, Jeff, Jen and….me, Jen.  This is where I became Clare (middle name) to avoid confusion, and why I remain Jen Clare to this day.  There are people who know me as Jen, and others who know me as Clare, so I use both.


-I returned to Chicagoland to attend graduate school at Northwestern University and play in The Civic Orchestra of Chicago.  I studied with Peter Slowik, Donald McInnes and Li-Kuo Chang.  During my tenure in the Civic Orchestra we played under the batons of Daniel Barenboim, Pierre Boulez and John Adams among others.  Barenboim included the Civic Orchestra in his series of Carnegie Hall concerts in 2000.  I was also a member of Musicorps, teaching and performing with a string quintet in city colleges.

-I also gained more experience in the studio playing with Chicago musicians like Chris Mills and the City That Works, Diane Izzo and Jim Becker, who also gave me old-time fiddle lessons.

– During this time Scott Rosenberg asked me to play in his Chicago Skronktet, I became a member of the Elgin Symphony Orchestra, Guillermo Gregorio’s Madi Ensemble was active, and Kyle Bruckmann asked me to join Wrack.  I was a big fan of the Empty Bottle’s Tuesday/Wednesday night music series, often running from Civic rehearsals to Tuesday night Vandermark 5 shows.


– A fella and the lure of a doctorate under the guidance of Sally Chisholm drew me out of Chicago and up to Madison, Wisconsin in 2004.  I attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a University Fellowship and as a Graduate Assistant playing in the graduate string quartet, The Hunt Quartet.  The Hunt implemented the Up-Close-and-Musical program for the university and the Madison Symphony Orchestra working closely with Madison Area Public Schools.

-I started teaching studio viola and violin at University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.  I’d teach at UW-W until 2011 when the part-time position was absorbed by a full-time upper strings position.  Some of my students formed The Echelon Quartet and they are still playing rockin’ string arrangements to this day.

-In 2006 I met the second influential barn in my musical life.  I was asked to play in John and Rose Mary Harbison’s Token Creek Chamber Music Festival.  They have hosted intimate chamber music and jazz concerts in their renovated barn just outside of Madison for many years, and I got to participate for several years.  Highlights for me have been performing some of John Harbison’s chamber music under his direction, and playing Mozart piano concerti as chamber music with Robert Levin.  Rose Mary also served a stunningly good coconut ginger ice cream one year that I will never forget.  The music, food and general good hang atmosphere at the barn just can’t be beat.

– In 2007 I graduated with my DMA degree.  For my doctoral project I transcribed tenor saxophone blues solos and thought out loud on paper about how to encourage classical players to incorporate more spontaneity in their playing.  I was inspired by improvising musicians and the Feldenkrais classes I was taking with Uri Vardi.  The project title :  Playing With Spontaneity:  A violist transcribes improvisations on the blues by Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Stan Getz and Sonny Rollins


We’ve made it to the stuff you can read about on the Projects page and in the blog posts.  Thanks for wading through it.  The web-site is a place to share but also a place for me to pull all of my disparate experiences and projects together.  Thanks for visiting and please come out to hear some music.  I’ll keep the calendar fresh as possible.