Like lots of college students, Sarah Jarosz is constantly trying to juggle her studies with work.

It’s just that for Jarosz, that out-of-school job is a little more fun than pouring lattes or waiting tables. For her, work entails playing concerts around the country and performing on radio’s “A Prairie Home Companion” or TV’s “Austin City Limits.”

“It’s just something I’ve always done. I’ve always been in school and been performing too,” said Jarosz, 21, last week from Nashville, where she attended the Americana Honors & Awards. “I just make a lot of lists to remind me what to do.”

Jarosz probably has a sticky note somewhere reminding her that she needs to be in Portland on Friday to do a show at the University of Southern Maine. Then she’s got a show with Dave Matthews in Canton, Mass. Then she’s got to get back to class, at the New England Conservatory in Boston.

“I’m in music school, so it’s not as hard as if I were in some other kind of school,” she said.

Music has never been hard for Jarosz. She grew up outside Austin, Texas, a place where music is a way of life. She got a mandolin for a present when she was a teenager, and was soon playing at major music festivals.

She also learned to play the banjo. And she sings. And writes songs.

Jarosz’s parents, both teachers, encouraged her to pursue her music.”My parents were both so supportive of me, and that has meant a lot.”

While still in her teens, Jarosz made the first of several appearances on Garrison Keillor’s public radio show “A Prairie Home Companion,” which often puts a spotlight on young acoustic, bluegrass or Americana performers.

“Garrison has a really amazing away of challenging himself and the people on the show, so it’s really a thrill to be on with him,” said Jarosz.

When she began playing mandolin, Jarosz was influenced by bluegrass music. But she was soon drawn to singer-songwriters as well, including Gillian Welch, Tim O’Brien and Paul Simon, and she’s a big fan of groups that defy genre definitions, such as The Decemberists, Nickel Creek and Wilco.

“I don’t like the idea of fitting into a genre. I like to use bluegrass instruments, but not necessarily just to make bluegrass music,” said Jarosz. “The Punch Brothers use bluegrass instruments, but I don’t consider them just bluegrass. I think people today are longing for a more honest sound, and I think that kind of sound can be incorporated into a lot of kinds of music.”

At the ripe old age of 19 in 2010, Jarosz was nominated for a Best Country Instrumental Grammy for her song “Mansinneedof” off the album “Song Up In Her Head.” The cast of veteran musicians who worked on that album with her included Darrell Scott and Jerry Douglas.

Her next album, “Follow Me Down,” included Bela Fleck and Shawn Colvin, among others.

In terms of her immediate plans, Jarosz is in her final year at the New England Conservatory, and says she’ll focus on that while continuing her career.

“I just take it day by day and realize I’m lucky to be doing both,” she said.

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: RayRouthier


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