By Barbara Corbellini Duarte
For most people, playing a musical instrument can be challenging enough.
But for Lindsey Stirling, the challenge was to play the violin while doing pirouettes, leg lifts and hip-hop steps.
“I feel like I have to move, or I’m not fully expressing what the song is,” she says. “I just have to make sure that I know the song super well, and then I can move around.”
And although she’s on the road with her national Shatter Me tour — her next stop is Sunset Cove Amphitheater in Boca Raton on July 5 — deconstructing the traditional violinist form wasn’t always easy.
Stirling has never taken dance classes, and learned how to do certain steps by watching tutorials and “So You Think You Can Dance” videos on YouTube. She took a month to learn to dance while playing a minute-long song.
Her distinct style got her onto Season 5 of “America’s Got Talent.” After her performance in the quarterfinals, judge Piers Morgan told her she sounded like rats being strangled. Sharon Osbourne said she wasn’t good enough to be on stage by herself and that she should be on a group.
“It was humiliating,” Stirling recalls. “It took everything inside of me to keep myself from just bursting into tears. I didn’t want to cry on national TV.”
But the judges’ words didn’t scare her.
After being voted off the show, Stirling knocked on record companies’ doors and often slept on airports when on her way to an audition. She heard “no” after “no.”
“It’s extremely discouraging, but, really, it were those times that helped me realize, ‘No. I want this, and I am willing to fight for it,’ ” she says. “And I think that made me a better person. It made me a better writer, and it made me so appreciative now for everything.”
Her unconventional sound of classical violin mixed with electronic dance music and dubstep found an audience on YouTube.
In collaboration with other cinematographers, Stirling produces her own videos, which often show her playing the violin in beautiful outdoor settings or unusual places, such as an ice castle. More than 5 million people currently subscribe to her YouTube channel.
The video for her original song “Crystallize” has more than 98 million views. Her most recent video, for “Shatter Me,” has already topped 9 million views.
Her personal story of struggle became an inspiration for composing music.
“Don’t be afraid of people that tell you no, and don’t give up when you reach your first rejection or your first failure, because that’s just part of finding yourself as a person and as an artist,” Stirling says. “You’re the author of your own story. You get to decide who you want to be.”