Billy Contreras is widely regarded as one of
the foremost improvising violinists of his
generation. Versed in wide ranging musical styles, at ease on multiple instruments, Billy has been described by violinist Christian Howes as “the most amazing jazz violinist ever…Not only is his facility amazing, but his deep understanding of harmony and the language of music, as well as his endless imagination…I could fill a book with ramblings about how amazing Billy Contreras is.”
Billy’s musical journey began at an early age. Insisting that he play the fiddle, Billy studied the Suzuki method of violin for one year. As chance would have it, local fiddlers held a contest at the city park. Billy was able to attend and never looked back. Since that time, he has had the good fortune to pursue his passion, form enduring friendships and study with some of the all time greats. At age eight, Billy met Buddy Spicher at a taping of the Mark O’Connor Heroes Show. One year later, Billy began sitting in with Buddy’s band. For the next six years, the Nashville Swing Band played weekly on lower Broad in Nashville. In 2008, Billy was honored to be recognized by Buddy during a Nashville Cats tribute to Buddy at the Country Music Hall of Fame.
During adolescence, Billy immersed himself in music, often hanging out with his older brother Cruz; exploring musical roots, bluegrass, swing, and jazz. During a visit to New York City, Billy met Lionel Hampton. Lionel invited Billy to perform at the Blue Note in Manhattan. For four consecutive years, Billy was a featured soloist at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival. In addition, Billy performed with Lionel and his Big Band in Nashville. For two consecutive years, Billy attended the Betty Carter Jazz Ahead Program at the Kennedy Center, and, at age sixteen, he enrolled at the University of Miami on a full music scholarship. Glenn Basham, violin professor at the University of Miami, in 2009 wrote, “I’ve known Billy for over ten years, and watched his musical artistry blossom from remarkable into something quite phenomenal! As an improvising violinist he is in a class by himself.”
Billy has most recently recorded with Hank Williams the Third, Charlie Louvin, and gospel singer, Candy Staten. In 2009, Billy performed at Bonnaroo and the Ryman Auditorium with The Black Lillies and is featured on their debut album, Whiskey Angel. He is also featured on their soon to be released, as yet unnamed, new album. Billy, also, did tour dates with The Deadly Gentlemen performing on stage with David Grisman. Thus far, in 2010, Billy has performed in concert with Mark O’Connor, as well as Ray Price. Billy is currently on tour with the legendary George Jones. Billy continues to perform regularly with Buddy Spicher. Additional venues in which Billy has performed include Farm Aid, France’s Jazz in Tete, the Roxy, the Conan O’Brian Show, CMT, and the Grand Old Opry.
In 2009, Billy taught at Chrisian Howes’ Creative Strings Workshop in Columbus, Ohio, at Mark O’Connor’s Fiddle Camp in Nashville, at the String Summit in Mount Shasta, California, and at the New School in Manhattan. In addition, Billy held his second annual house clinic in Nashville. His students performed at IBMA and the Frist Center for the Visual Arts.