After Lucia Micarelli won a violin competition while coming of age in New York, she headed off to Sizzler to celebrate.
“That was my reward, and I would order the steak and baked potato and just live it up,” Micarelli recalls with a laugh. “It was the coolest thing for a kid. It was what I lived for.”
And what happened when Micarelli, 34, failed to take first place? “It was back to the practice room for me,” she says.
Endless practice sessions paid off for Micarelli, who has become an acclaimed violinist with an esteemed resume. Micarelli, who will perform Friday at the Cary Arts Center, has made a name for herself as a solo recording artist.
But before she struck out on her own, the musician, who is of Korean and Italian heritage, toured with Chris Botti, Josh Groban and Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull fame.
“All of those guys were amazing with me,” Micarelli says. “It continued my education.”
Her first big break was a gig with Trans-Siberian Orchestra a decade ago.
“That was my first experience with a massive show,” Micarelli says, calling from her Los Angeles home. “I remember when I got the job, they asked if I had an electric violin and I didn’t. They made one specifically for me. The big rock thing that TSO does was alien to me at that time, but it worked out well. Rock was so new to me.”
Micarelli, who grew up strictly on classical, devoured other styles of music as she became an adult, including jazz, pop and rock.
“I remember the first time I heard jazz in a New York club, and I was like, ‘What the hell is this?’ I was just blown away,” she says. “Then I immersed myself in classic rock with Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. It was super cool. But I grew up so much after being with TSO and being exposed to many cool styles of music for the first time.”
Micarelli’s horizons were broadened by her plum gig as an actress in David Simon’s acclaimed HBO drama “Treme,” which ran from 2010 to 2013.
“There was nothing like that show,” Micarelli says. “I improved dramatically as an entertainer because of that experience. David cast me as a street musician. I was part of telling the real story of what Hurricane Katrina was like for New Orleans. David was so in love with New Orleans, and I benefited from that experience.”
She sat in with New Orleans street musicians and met Cajun fiddle players. She met Steve Earle, too, a musician she admired.
“I got to play with him, which was awesome,” she said. “Steve pushed me to write a song. I’m so indebted to him. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. I learned so much about music, and I fell in love with a unique city.”
Her solo albums have included compelling versions of such classics as David Bowie’s “Lady Grinning Soul” and Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
“An Evening With Lucia Micarelli,” which was filmed in Santa Barbara, Calif., last summer, will air on PBS in March. “That was amazing,” Micarelli says. “How often does a musician get a night like that on PBS?”
Even though Micarelli has been playing many different styles of music, she still reaches back for classical.
“I do it for my mother,” Micarelli says. “When I was doing ‘Treme,’ I wasn’t playing classical. My mom would ask, ‘What’s up with that?’ One episode I worked out that I played some (Felix) Mendelssohn. I told my mom that it was for her.
“I put all of my heart and soul into classical when I was a child. It wasn’t an easy childhood. When other kids were out playing, I was practicing indoors. But if I didn’t work so hard, I wouldn’t be doing this today. So now those kids are adults working inside and I’m out playing all around the world with my violin, thanks to my parents.”
Who: Lucia Micarelli, presented by Cary’s Marvelous Music Mainstage Series
When: 7:30 p.m. Jan. 26
Where: Cary Arts Center, 101 Dry Ave., Cary
Tickets: $27 with discounts for adults 55 and older and groups of four
Info: 919-462-2055 or townofcary.org