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Bon Jovi’s Secret Weapon

Rock violinist Lorenza Ponce draws on her Syracuse education to achieve Grammy-winning success.
Lorenza Ponce playing violin next to Bon Jovi.

Grammy-winning violinist Lorenza Ponce with Jon Bon Jovi. The Syracuse University alumna has worked with him for more than 20 years. (Photo by Sabine Schütz)

Violinist Lorenza Ponce never set out to win a Grammy. But when her Scorchio Quartet received the 2024 award as featured artist on the “Best New Age, Ambient or Chant Album”—Carla Patullo’s autobiographical So She Howls—the Syracuse University graduate was moved to tears.

Inspired by Patullo’s three-year battle with breast cancer, the album holds significance for Ponce, too. “I feel like my parents have had a hand in its success,” she says, speaking by phone from her farm in northern Maryland.

The daughter of a hobbyist beekeeper and an amateur pianist, Ponce recalls winning her first blue ribbon for her honey two weeks after her father died in 2016. “He would have loved seeing me get that ribbon,” says the part-time apiarist.

Fast forward to her mother’s death in 2023. A despondent Ponce remembers leaving the nursing home and informing her family: “Watch—now that she’s gone, I’ll win a Grammy.” And that’s what happened.

Admittedly, the nomination, which arrived in Ponce’s inbox last fall, was a big shock. Perhaps bigger than the award itself. “The nomination freaked me out because it seemed like a self-fulfilling prophecy,” says Ponce, adding that her musical matriarch would have been “over the moon” about the award. “The Grammy is another example of how my life and career have been guided by something.”

The University let me finish my violin studies and prepare for a career in rock. I learned jazz improvisation, electronic music and audio engineering from some remarkable professors.

Lorenza Ponce

Known for her chart-topping work with Jon Bon Jovi, Sheryl Crow and the Chicks, Ponce is equally at home with trailblazers like Patullo. That Scorchio recorded all their parts in one day at New Jersey’s Hobo Sound is a testament to Ponce’s work ethic. “The experience was amazing,” she says of the June 2023 recording session.

Reeling from the loss of her mother and the vulnerability of Patullo’s writing, Ponce delivered. “Carla wanted our quartet to add emotion,” she says. “My job was to help convey these feelings, to lift them off the page and into the ears of our listeners.”

Ponce thinks So She Howls is about fear—moving through it and coming out the other side, stronger and more joyful. “It’s the story of my life,” she says unapologetically.

Radiating Light and Positivity

Lorenza Ponce with her Grammy award.

Ponce with her 2024 Grammy Award for playing on Carla Patullo’s So She Howls. (Photo by Mark Seliger.)

The Scorchio Quartet grew out of a 2001 collaboration with David Bowie at Carnegie Hall. Following work on his Heathen album, the electro-acoustic outfit began fielding offers from other luminaries, like Lou Reed ’64; Reed's wife, Laurie Anderson; Philip Glass; Patti Smith; and Phish’s Trey Anastasio.

Although members of the group are classically trained, they consider themselves “multi-style musicians” who play with nonclassical artists. Their moniker is equally ambiguous. British for “extremely hot,” Scorchio also refers to the art technique of foreshortening, creating the illusion of depth.

For all the fuss over the group, it represents only part of Ponce’s multifaceted career—one whose seeds were planted in the venerable Setnor School of Music in Syracuse’s College of Visual and Performing Arts.

Originally enrolled at the Manhattan School of Music, Ponce discovered that conservatory life wasn’t for her. “I went to the Aspen Music Festival [and School] in Colorado, where a friend told me about Syracuse,” she recollects. The promise of a generous string fellowship, which included playing with the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra, sounded too good to be true.

“The University let me finish my violin studies and prepare for a career in rock,” says the former music major, who, in her spare time, studied classical voice and transcribed Clapton and Hendrix guitar solos. “I learned jazz improvisation, electronic music and audio engineering from some remarkable professors.”

One of them was Mark Drews, a seasoned audio engineer who introduced her to stereo and multitrack recording and mixing. “Mark set me on my path,” Ponce recently told a packed audience at Syracuse’s Joseph I. Lubin House in New York City, where she also lives. “He encouraged me to get an electric violin.”

Outside of music, Ponce endeared herself to the Gamma Chapter of the Greek Life organization Delta Phi Epsilon. She’s still close to many of her sisters, including Roxanne Donovan, who compares Ponce to a swan that radiates “light, positivity and serenity.” “What you don’t see is all the hard work, the strength in the paddling of Lorenza’s legs, which happens below the surface,” Donovan says. “She’s remarkable.”

Being 150% Prepared

Ponce loves coloring outside the lines—or to paraphrase composer Claude Debussy, honoring the spaces between the notes. It’s this aesthetic, for which she’s seemingly hardwired, that lets her embrace disparate musical worlds.

Bon Jovi considers Ponce his “secret weapon.” “She’s an incredible role model, an amazing talent and a beautiful lady, inside and out,” says the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer.

I’ve made a career out of stepping into the unknown. Like everything else, it takes practice. Lots of practice.

Lorenza Ponce

A veteran of his eponymous rock band and solo acoustic group, Ponce wrote and played the string arrangements on Blind Love, the hit single from the band’s Burning Bridges album, and Real Love, a bonus track from their studio follow-up, This House Is Not for Sale. She also turned heads on the band’s mega-successful “Lost Highway” tour.

Proof that all roads lead to Syracuse, Ponce went viral in 2021, when she and Bon Jovi filmed a version of the Beatles’ Here Comes the Sun for the inauguration of President Joseph R. Biden Jr. L’68, H’09. “I got no sleep the night before, but it was worth it,” says Ponce, regarding the pre-dawn shoot in Miami’s Diana Beach. “The sun broke through the clouds as we started playing.”

She’s learned volumes from Bon Jovi, including the importance of staying healthy on the road and being relentlessly professional. “You have to be 150% prepared, so in case you falter, you’re still giving 100%,” says Ponce, who also sings; plays viola, guitar and mandolin; and has worked with other artists like Dolly Parton, Carly Simon, Sam Smith, Kitaro and John Tesh. “It takes a lot to get to the top. Staying there is even harder.”

Busy as a Bee

Lorenza Ponce playing on stage with Bon Jovi.

Bon Jovi considers Ponce an “incredible role model and an amazing talent.” (Photo by Luca Jovi Colm)

Credit the University for inspiring Ponce to break into New York City’s heady club scene. Sporting a candy apple red electric violin and a black leather jacket, she eventually caught the attention of singer Ivy Markaity, who hired her for an alt-rock project called Raining Violet.

“As soon as we went on, Lorenza was in her element,” says Markaity, recalling the band’s auspicious debut at The Limelight. “Even then, she had the discipline, drive and charisma to be a star.”

At the encouragement of Yes’ Jon Anderson, Ponce began writing and recording her own material. Six solo albums later, she continues to infuse her artistry with a sense of exploration.

Whether making a buzz onstage or on her family farm, where she oversees a 37-acre pollinator sanctuary, Ponce is all about calculated risk-taking—something she learned at Syracuse. “I’ve made a career out of stepping into the unknown,” she adds. “Like everything else, it takes practice. Lots of practice.”

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