There is nothing sweeter than the lilt of a violin bow caressing its strings. The sparkle of a blues that reaches the rafters, and then trails down again in a melodious cascade of Scat, Soul, Jazz, & Gospel. People’s response when they first hear the ViolinDiva is always “I don’t know just what that was, but I loved it.”
Some extraordinary stories in Music begin in the most ordinary of places. Charisa, the ViolinDiva began her musical journey in a small public school program at the tender age of four, and so began a lifelong love-affair with music. This training was coupled with the strong gospel heritage of her parents’ traditional Baptist church, where she also sang in the choirs. Born and raised in Maryland, all of her earliest musical influences - from the traditional gospel to Washington DC’s gogo; and from swinging jazz to the music of a classical symphony, intermixed to create an innovative and jazz-infused take on contemporary gospel.
Since taking on soul jazz, Charisa has collaborated with some dynamic artists across the musical borders, including T.D. Jakes, Wynton Marsalis, Kirk Franklin, Kim Burrell, Patti Labelle, Nancy Jackson Johnson and William McDowell, to name a few. She has collaborated with independent gospel artists and ministries throughout the world, both as a musician and minister. In the summer of 2011, Charisa won grand prizes in both the McDonald’s Gospelfest Competition in Newark and the West Oak Lane Jazz Festival Competition in Philadelphia, as well as semi-finalist place in the Apollo Competition, in front of and audience of 10,000. In 2013, she was featured on BET’s Black Girls Rock to a worldwide audience as a violin soloist, and was also awarded an ASCAP award for outstanding young songwriters by the legendary songwriter Valerie Simpson. In 2017, she will be the featured artist on the Artist Against AIDS project sponsored by the National Black Leadership Commission against AIDS, which will include a CD project featuring Charisa alongside artists such as Esperanza Spalding, Vickie Winans, and Alicia Keys, to name a few; as well as a summer concert on Central Park Summerstage. In Dec 2022, her gospel jazz version of “Bethlehem” was featured in the movie “Miracle before Christmas” starting Letoya Luckett on BET.
More than just a psalmist, Charisa firmly believes in sowing seeds into the next generation of young urban string players. After receiving her Master’s Degree cum laude from Rutgers in 2007, she began two regular urban strings classes in the Bronx and Harlem which she maintains today, teaching 200 children of New York City a classical foundation augmented with hip hop and jazz. This work has lead to the development of her new curriculum that targets minority students in underserved urban communities, from which she regularly teaches workshops and seminars. Reflective of her heart to carry out the Great Commission and win the world with God’s Love, Charisa’s community endeavors reach far and wide beyond the scope of music ministry to people ministry in her continuous outreach work to women and children, and see the people of God set free. Her ministries are based out of Newark, NJ where she is a violinist and worship leader at Christ Church, under the leadership of Pastor David Ireland, in nearby Montclair NJ.
After much anticipation, Charisa’s first album ‘ The War Chronicles EP’ in the gospel genre is set to release in 2024, kicking off with the inspired soul jazz version of Nothing is Impossible originally by the beloved worship ensemble Planetshakers. In a career that only continues to move forward, this project is a seminal benchmark in her journey to the next chapter in soul.
Charisa the ViolinDiva
Soul Jazz Violinist and Vocalist