DOWNTOWN — When you think about it, life is a series of forks in the road. They could be as trivial as where to go for lunch or as daunting as whether or not to move halfway across the world for employment. For violinist Jennifer Argenti, these “sliding doors” are key to finding her way.
“Every decision that you make could change the course of the rest of your life,” Argenti said.
The Santa Monica resident will be releasing her debut solo album Nov. 10, appropriately titled “Sliding Doors.” The music comes directly from Argenti’s most recent serendipitous decision.
“It was late and I was tired, but there was something telling me … ‘just go to this party,’” Argenti said.
After she arrived at her friends’ gathering, Argenti was convinced to jam with a pianist by the name of Aime Caron.
“Three minutes later we were still playing. When we were done, we looked up and everyone in the room was just staring at us,” Argenti recalled.
From that moment on, Argenti and Caron knew that they needed to write music together.
Argenti’s first sliding door moment came while growing up in Baltimore, Md. Everyone in her family played music, and as the youngest of four girls, Argenti was no exception. At the age of 6, she began playing piano, adding violin a year later. By the time she got to high school, Argenti realized that music was far more than a hobby.
Argenti enrolled in the Baltimore School for the Arts, finding her own real life version of “Fame.”
“That school changed my life,” Argenti said.
Aside from learning among students from all walks of life, the young musician expanded her horizons as she traveled to Taiwan with the Greater Baltimore Youth Orchestra. Upon graduation, her talents bought her to the Baldwin Wallace Conservatory of Music in Cleveland, Ohio. Argenti found the conservatory grueling, practicing six hours a day in front of a mirror on the 1946 West German violin that her mother found in the Baltimore Sun classifieds.
“I’ve had it ever since [I was 16],” Argenti said. “It’s never out of my sight.”
By the end of her time in Cleveland, Argenti was burnt out and saw moving to Taiwan as a much needed break. She discovered herself musically, but did not know where to turn next.
After passing a year in Taiwan working at a hotel, teaching English and subbing for a member of the Tapei Symphony Orchestra, Argenti returned to the states in search of a steady job.
Just as her mother had discovered her violin, an ad in the paper landed the musician in the natural stone industry, working for an importer and distributor. Argenti fell in love with the beauty of the stone and chose to follow her sisters west, knowing that the good weather meant a year-long season for natural stone.
After just a year living with one of her sisters in Southern California, Argenti relocated to a residence near Santa Monica College. Now 18 years later, its clear that she won’t be going anywhere.
“I love that [it’s] so environmentally friendly,” Argenti said of Santa Monica. “Even though I travel [it’s like] I’m coming back to a vacation.”
Argenti soon became a beach regular, as well as a member of the Santa Monica Symphony and a local string quartet. These hobbies have remained, even as sliding door moments have taken Argenti in and out of the corporate world.
The stone industry raised Argenti’s awareness about the environment. Just a few years after starting her own business, Argenti enrolled in Cal State Northridge to pursue environmental studies, eventually landing a job with the Walt Disney Co.
“It’s funny that I speak about the School for the Arts changing my world and being so liberal and free,” Argenti said. “Working for the Walt Disney Co. in their department for environmental policy, it was the same feeling. They let me be creative.”
With Argenti, Disney won numerous EPA awards. After hours, however, Argenti and her violin were still inseparable. Around 2003, Argenti decided that it was finally time to focus solely on music.
“[I] leapt off the edge and really went for it,” Argenti said.
Argenti began studying at the California College of Music. After her improvisational skills progressed, Argenti earned a scholarship to the Colborn School of Music in Downtown L.A. Honing her chordal knowledge in the jazz department, the violinist gained the confidence to be able to “jam” with others.
“I love that I can just sit down … and just play,” Argenti said. “This is just coming … from way within because it’s my own creation.”
Since Colborn, Argenti has played in numerous shows and competitions, with talented musicians like Danny B. Harvey. Just last week, Harvey and Argenti released their entirely improvised album, “Endless Summertime,” online.
“It’s called ‘Endless Summertime,’ because — especially for me as a surfer — every day is like an endless summer,” Argenti said.
An avid runner along Santa Monica Beach, Argenti admired the surfers so much that she decided to try it herself 12 years ago. In 2007, she became a champion in the Western Surfing Association’s Hobie Championship. Nine months of intense training paid off.
“It was one of the things that inspired me to even go more into my music,” Argenti said. If she put the same energy into her violin that she had into surfing, she realized she could take her music to the next level.
And she has.
Argenti now enjoys sponsorship for both surfing and music and is eagerly anticipating the release of “Sliding Doors.”
The album features myriad stylistic influences. One of Argenti’s most personal tracks, “Home,” embodies the personality of her mother whom she lost to surgery earlier this year.
“My mom always kept me grounded,” Argenti said. “I feel her spirit with me all the time.”
Tragedy has played a role in some of Argenti’s most recent work. The violinist is featured on Laura Roppe’s song “Float Away,” which tells the story of losing someone close to you. The track made it to number five on Amazon UK’s top downloads while the artists were in the UK shooting the music video. Argenti recorded the song earlier this year after her good friend and fellow surfer Kevin Gale went missing in the Santa Monica Bay.
“It all ties in,” she said of the emotional connection. “It’s been such a crazy year, but such amazing stuff has come out of it.”
Still to come will be the artist’s performance at the Los Angeles Music Awards in November. Argenti is nominated in numerous categories, including “Instrumentalist of the Year,” and will perform on the red carpet. Though she has used her mom’s antique model since the age of 16, Argenti is excited for a new steel-plated violin from world renowned luthier James Trussart. The performance instrument will hopefully be put to good use as more sliding door moments fuel Argenti’s career.
“I’m still on my path,” Argenti said. “I take none of it for granted.