Kelsey Lu says she was “enraptured” when she first saw a cello as a kid in a music store. (Courtesy photo)

Kelsey Lu says she was “enraptured” when she first saw a cello as a kid in a music store. (Courtesy photo)

Go-to cellist Kelsey Lu goes solo with ‘Blood’

Musician’s connection with her instrument ‘almost beyond explanation’

When Kelsey Lu walked into her hometown North Carolina music store as a kid, ostensibly for violin lessons, she only knew she wanted to play in the school orchestra. “I remember that the store smelled like polished wood, and as I walked in, I noticed this cello propped up against the wall and was just enraptured,” says the Jehovah’s-Witness-raised Lu, who at 18 ran away from home to pursue music. She went on to become the go-to stage and studio cellist for artists like Solange, Blood Orange and Florence + the Machine, before issuing her obsidian-hued debut “Blood” this month.

What impressed you so much about the cello?

That first day, my music teacher saw me repeatedly looking back at it, so she finally said, “Well? Do you want to take it home?” And I was like, “Yeah!” So I just loved the cello. There was just something about it that drew me to it, like the way that your body is wrapped around it. I remember the first note that I played after resting it against my body, and it just vibrated my whole being. And I just knew that that’s what I was going to play.

What did the cello do for you, sonically, that the violin could not?

There was just something about the physical contact and the resonance that it had. And you get these low tones, the kind you just can’t get from a violin. And I never felt completely comfortable with a violin in my left wrist. I thought, “Why do I have to pain myself just to play this thing?” Plus its tone didn’t sit well with me, and it was just so loud. I couldn’t be quiet with it. I didn’t know how. And in finding my own voice with the cello, I found a similar connection to the way I sing and move. So I have a connection that’s almost beyond any explanation.

How did you get noticed on such an international scale?

Well, there are a lot of cellists. But before I moved to New York, then L.A., the first call I got was when I went to this bar after work, even though I was still underage. I met two of the bartender’s friends, and they were like, “Oh, my God! You play cello? We do conscious hip hop, and we’re going into the studio. You want to come by and play cello on a track?” And nobody had asked me to play anything outside of classical music before.


Kelsey Lu

Where: Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell St., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. Sunday, April 28

Tickets: $17 to $20

Contact: (415) 885-0750,


Just Posted

On Sunday, California bore the brunt of what meteorologists referred to as a bomb cyclone and an atmospheric river, a convergence of storms that brought more than half a foot of rain to parts of the Bay Area, along with high winds, concerns about flash floods and the potential for heavy snow in the Sierra Nevada. Much of the Bay Area was under a flash flood watch on Sunday, with the National Weather Service warning of the potential for mudslides across the region. (NOAA via The New York Times)
Bomb cyclone, atmospheric river combine to pummel California with rain and wind

What you need to know about this historic weather event

National Weather Service flood watch in the San Francisco Bay Area for Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021. (National Weather Service via Bay City News)
Storm updates: Sunday was wettest October day in San Francisco history

Torrential rainfall causes flooding, triggers evacuations in burn areas

Plan Bay Area 2050 is an expansive plan guiding the region’s growth and development over the next three decades. The regional plan addresses progressive policy priorities like a universal basic income and a region-wide rent cap, alongside massive new spending on affordable housing and transportation infrastructure. (Shutterstock)
$1.4 trillion ‘blueprint’ would address Bay Area’s housing, transit woes

Analyzing the big ticket proposals in ‘Plan Bay Area 2050’

A collaborative workspace for a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) in Coordinape is pictured at a recent blockchain meet up at Atlas Cafe. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)</ins>
Business without bosses: San Francisco innovators battle bureaucracy with blockchain

‘The next generation will work for three DAOs at the same time’

Most Read