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South Carroll grad sees life of success as rock violinist for Bon Jovi, Sheryl Crow

South Carroll grad sees life of success as rock violinist for Bon Jovi, Sheryl Crow
Lorenza Ponce (Submitted art)

Lorenza Ponce always knew she wanted to be a rock violinist.

There wasn’t really any good reason she thought that’s what she should be, she said, but rather, it was something more like destiny.

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“I think some people just know what they’re supposed to do for all of their lives and that was what I was [going to do],” she said.

The South Carroll High School graduate — who has spent her life playing with bands and artists like Bon Jovi, Sheryl Crow and Sam Smith — grew up doing all things music, something that ultimately led to her successes.

“I was musical. That’s the thing that sent me to New York,” she said.

She grew up in a musical household, listening to rock ’n’ roll and pulling from inspiration from artists like Frank Marino from Mahogany Rush, Van Halen and the girls from Heart, she said.

After being signed to Angel/EMI Records, she embarked on a world tour as the solo violinist for Kitaro, a Japanese recording artist and one of the most prominent acts of the new-age genre. Then, in 1997, she released her first record, “Imago,” before landing her next big gig: touring with Sheryl Crow.

“That’s where I really learned about rock and roll touring,” she said.

But her main gig remains with Jon Bon Jovi. She first performed with Bon Jovi as a violin player in 2001, and has continued to work with the band since then. She did one world tour with Bon Jovi on the Lost Highway Tour in 2007 through 2008, she said. Ponce is currently a member of Jon Bon Jovi’s solo acoustic group, as well as his party band, The Kings of Suburbia.

Lorenza Ponce, South Carroll High School graduate
Lorenza Ponce, South Carroll High School graduate (Carroll County Public Schools)

Ponce’s dedication and success in music has led her all over the world. She has played for presidents, the governor of New York and crowds and crowds of people. She’s gotten to write songs and create six records, something she said always wanted to do. Writing is cathartic, she said, a way to release your thoughts and feelings.

“It’s just one of those things I’m driven to do — it’s to get it out and put it down on recording,” Ponce said.

In her spare time, the New York City resident loves travel and learning about different people, enjoys food and wine, and recently has taken up beekeeping on a farm in Maryland.

But for most of her life, music has been at the forefront.

Ponce said she had people who recognized her ability, something that helped her get to where she is now. In her senior year at South Carroll High School, she took classes in the morning and practiced violin in the afternoon. That really allowed her to dedicate time to getting better at the instrument, she said.

For Ponce, teachers in Carroll County Public Schools helped her hone on her talent and grow before she flourished. David Robinson, who was a teacher with CCPS for three decades, taught Ponce as a private student for a few years, even setting up a string quartet for her and three other musicians to practice simultaneously.

“I wanted to give them a chance to be able to do some chamber work,” Robinson said of the group, adding that they were all very good players.

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Lorenza Ponce
Lorenza Ponce (Submitted art)

And after working with her for a few years, Robinson said, Ponce got to the point where she needed to have someone more advanced training her, and recommended she pursue Peabody Preparatory. And while it’s been some time since he taught her, Robinson remembers Ponce was talented and always driven.

“She worked hard,” he added. “It was a real joy to work with her.”

Robinson said his work with her was focused on classical music, so it’s funny to see her playing with rock groups. But for Ponce, that dream to play that style was always there.

“I always knew I was going to be a rocker,” she said, though she didn’t know how she would get there.

It made sense to go to music school — that’s what you do if you are a violinist, she said.

Ponce made her way to the Manhattan School of Music, though she transferred after a year to Syracuse University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in performance violin. Ponce said Syracuse gave her a fellowship to attend the school, so in addition to being a financially smart decision, she realized she didn’t just want a music school.

“I wanted to be in a regular college and meet other people,” she added.

After college, she moved to New York City, where she bought her first electric violin and started playing with club bands as she tried to figure out how to get where she wanted to be.

Then she met Jon Anderson, the lead singer of the band Yes. She performed on one of his records, and Anderson encouraged her to strike out on her own.

“He just said, ‘You should be a solo artist,’ ” Ponce said. “So that’s what I did.”

After her tour with Kitaro, she spent four years in Crow’s band and did another tour with her in 2006. From there, she’s toured with the artists including the Dixie Chicks, Hall and Oates, Ben Folds Five, Bon Jovi, John Tesh and Sam Smith. She’s also played alongside artists such as Katy Perry, Pearl Jam, Sarah McLachlan, Neil Young, Stevie Nicks, Dolly Parton, Ray LaMontagne, Emmylou Harris, Cyndi Lauper, The Zombies and Paul Rodgers.

It hasn’t always been easy for Ponce to achieve her goals.

“You have to have a lot of faith,” she said.

She’s had to push through a male-based industry, she said. Essentially, she added, you have to be like “Teflon,” and you always have to see the bigger picture — the longevity of your career and your happiness. It was a lot of hard work, but she did it, she added.

Ponce said she had hard-working parents and a strong work ethic to get where she needed to be. And while people often say she got lucky, it’s more than that, Ponce said.

“Luck is when preparation and opportunity meet,” she added. “I worked really hard to be prepared for the luck.”

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