Meet A Musician: Sarah Grimes

Meet A Musician: Sarah Grimes

Minnesota Orchestra member since: 2016
Section: First Violin
Hometown: Shoreview, MN
Education: Northwestern University

You’ve had a very exciting history with the Minnesota Orchestra! Tell us a little bit about your journey so far.

I started going to hear Minnesota Orchestra children’s concerts when I was 4 or 5 years old, and eventually I studied violin with the Orchestra’s former Associate Concertmaster Sarah Kwak. I also had the opportunity to solo with the Orchestra during Sommerfest a few times as a teenager after participating in Minnesota Idol and winning a prize in the YPSCA School Music Auditions.

After I finished college at Northwestern University in Chicago, I took an audition to sub with the Orchestra. I played occasionally with them for several years until the audition last October, when I won a position in the violin section. 

Sarah (age 13) with Music Director Osmo Vanska at a Minnesota Youth Symphonies workshop.

How did you choose the violin? 

My dad plays the trumpet, my mom is a pianist, and my younger sister and brother play viola and cello, respectively. I started violin when I was four, and grew to love its vocal quality and range of sound colors, but I’m pretty sure my motivation for choosing it at that age was that I just wanted to be unique and play a different instrument than anyone in my family!

Tell us about an experience that has influenced you most?

When I was little, my grandma took me to play at nursing homes and hospitals—something I continued doing as I grew up. On a superficial level, it was a way to become more comfortable in front of an audience, but I think it also impressed upon me at a very early age what a profound gift it is to be able to share music with people. Those experiences really shaped and grounded my perspective as a musician.

What is one of your proudest moments as a musician?

One of the coolest moments for me was playing a Minnesota Orchestra concert with my dad, who is a substitute trumpet player with the Orchestra.


Sarah and her dad, Greg Grimes, on the Orchestra Hall stage after a performance together.

Which moment in the violin’s orchestral repertoire is your favorite?

I love the balcony scene from Prokofiev's​ Romeo and Juliet, and my favorite violin solo is the obligato ​from the aria Erbarme dich in St. Matthew’s Passion.

What career would you have pursued if you weren’t a musician?

Growing up I always said I wanted to be an archeologist, and I studied Latin and Ancient Greek in high school and college. I also (briefly) considered double majoring in journalism or creative writing. So, basically, even if I wasn’t a musician, I’d still be a nerd.

If you could play a different instrument, which would you choose and why?

Cello or horn. They have the most gorgeous timbres, but I don’t think I’d do well with the physical challenges of either!

What are you listening to lately? 

Recently I’ve been studying several violin sonatas by a Polish composer named Grazyna Bacewicz, and I’ve been listening to some of her other solo and string quartet works. She has an impressive and varied body of work—go check her out! Outside the classical realm, I like Sufjan Stevens, The Cure, anything Chris Thile does, Courtney Barnett, Robyn, Beach House, Chance the Rapper, Fleet Foxes, Beyonce, and so many others.

Do you have any thoughts or advice for audience members? 

As a kid who grew up listening to the Minnesota Orchestra, I’m a big proponent of taking your kids (or grandkids, nieces, nephews, etc.) to see the orchestra. Take them out for ice cream and ask them to tell you a story about the music they heard. Their imaginations never disappoint.

Sarah, at age 4

Do you have any advice for aspiring musicians?

Whenever musical opportunities arise that scare you, just say yes. 


Click here to read more about Sarah.

Sarah is featured in a Minnesota Orchestra Chamber Music concert on June 3.

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