Violinist expresses herself through music and food

Jenny Cho will tell you that playing music is about giving a piece of yourself to the notes and to the audience.

"I think it says so many things," says Cho and that's the great thing it doesn't have to be any one thing you can do a lot of different things and you can show the parts of yourself that contradicts itself and is not necessarily supposed to work together."

Music has been a part of Cho’s life since she was just a little girl.  She started playing piano when she was 5 and violin when she was 7.  "I took myself really seriously even as a little kid," says Cho. "I think people made a big deal about the fact that I had perfect pitch which I don't know by itself means anything. But people thought it was cool so they made a big deal of it."

Music took her to Juilliard where she met her husband but it also brought her to the Bay Area back in 2010 with the San Francisco Opera, something she calls a dream come true because "it's allowed me to live my life as a musician and that's what I do."

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She is now concert master for the California Symphony and it's fair to say the last several years have been busy.  

She got married to bassist Mark Wallace, had a son, bought a home in Petaluma and three years ago took on a pretty impressive hobby.  

She is growing a food forest in her front yard. To qualify as a forest, Cho says it's all about the layers.   There are technically seven.

 "So we have the really tall trees that would be these plums that are native here and then we’ve got the smaller trees so like the lemons," explains Cho, "then we have the herb layer, which is a lot of plants like the rosemary.  

Add the edible ground cover of strawberries, and the layer of roots, beets and potatoes, the blackberry and passion fruit vining layer and the last one she says is the fungal level. 

It's been a labor of love that her husband never doubted would grow. "No," laughs Wallace "absolutely not Jenny takes her hobbies very seriously." 

Cho says it's been fun to watch it all develop, noting that failures get composted.   She laughs when she points out that there is a grocery store just a stone’s throw from her forest and her chickens but she says she was inspired to create this world for her son where hard work can be held in their hands.

Cho says, "to me it’s the perfect foil to playing music because with the violin you are practicing and you play and prepare and what we create is you can't grab you can 't hold a performance in your hand, so it's really refreshing to be able to put your time into something and say this is a tomato."

And as the forest grows, so does her story, she is a gardener, musician, mother and wife and she says it all makes her a better musician.  "You have to live in a way that makes you have something to say," explains Cho, "otherwise why would you they want to listen to you." 

 Cho will be performing at the Lesher Center in Walnut Creek on Jan. 19 at 8 p.m. and Jan. 20 at 4 p.m.  You can buy tickets online at or call the box office 925-943-7469.