Aurora Bowers is a classically trained fiddler that has been playing since the age of 6. She got her start in Fairbanks, Alaska, in a musical family with deep roots in the Alaskan traditional music scene. At a young age, she was mentored and inspired by the then-members of Alaskan-based band Bearfoot, who, in addition to her banjo-playing father, Pete Bowers, played an important role in showing her what a musical life should look like.
At age 13 she started a band with 6 other friends who like her, had taken lessons from the local star violin/fiddle teacher, Susie Hallinan. That experience was empowering and taught her the basics of collaboration, performing, and recording. She took a hiatus from playing while in high school, which made for a fresh re-start when she began playing again in college.
In college, she was inspired by attending Rockygrass bluegrass festival, and remembering how much she really, truly, dearly, loved bluegrass. In the meantime, she was pursuing a politics degree at a small liberal arts school called Whitman college, where, surprisingly, other bluegrass musicians were in short supply. A friend of hers happened to play guitar in the school jazz ensemble, and so, on a bit of a whim, she decided to see if a fiddler was needed in the jazz ensemble. The jazz instructor at the time, Dave Glenn, was an open-minded guy, and didn’t see why the jazz ensemble couldn’t use a fiddle, and as it turns out, one of the only other bluegrass musicians on campus, also a fiddler, had had the same idea. So for two years, the Whitman Jazz Ensemble had two bluegrass fiddlers in it. During that time Aurora was inspired and challenged by the talented musicians in the program, and developed a love and enthusiasm for (if not an entirely firm grasp on) jazz theory, which greatly enhanced her bluegrass chops.
Another influence in her musical life in college was the spontaneous formation of an indie band called Whichbear, with a group of great friends and musicians. Genre-bending, challenging, jazz-influenced, but always fun, Whichbear enjoyed a brief career during most of the bandmembers’ last year of college, which inspired Aurora to surround herself with the type of people that can challenge themselves musically without ever losing the lighthearted spirit that she loves.
Following graduation from Whitman, Aurora decided to attend a year of school in the Bluegrass, Old-Time and Country Music program at East Tennessee State University. This time was a great period of growth and expansion for her as a musician. Initially upon auditioning for the program, she was cornered by two of the old-time instructors, Roy Andrade and Joseph DeCosimo, to coerce her into forsaking her bluegrass dreams in favor of old-timey fame and stardom, due solely to their knowledge that her dad, Pete Bowers, had written an article for The Old Time Herald. Though initially unconvinced, she was soon swayed by the jovial and welcoming nature of the local old-timey contingent. She took lessons from Joseph, and, through a very slow and sometimes painful process, she eventually got a feel for that sweet sweet old time groove, and thereafter fell in love with it. However, she never lost her zest for bluegrass, and was meanwhile taking lessons from bluegrass great Hunter Berry, which was another challenging and fruitful experience.
During this time, she also started writing songs. It began with a songwriting class, but really it came more from a realization that her love of music was borne more out of a desire for creative expression than a need for showmanship or competition. She had always written in some regard or other, but for whatever reason it took a long time for her to really begin writing songs in earnest. Her first song written in this class, which is now called “I’ve Walked a Mile,” was originally titled “Aurora’s Great Big Song,” because there was only one… So why not?
After spending a year growing, steeping, laughing, and drinking way too much discount beer at ETSU, she finally made her way up to Boston, where her brother, Ryan Bowers, was attending Berklee College of Music in the roots program. There she spent a year fully immersing herself in the rich musical culture that surrounds Berklee and the rest of the roots scene in Boston. Living with former Slightly Askew bandmate Jody March and fiddling hotshot Brittany Haas made for a wonderful education by osmosis that involved more tequila than actual fiddling.
After spending a year there, Aurora decided that there was only so much education that could come about through osmosis and tequila, and so she moved back to Alaska to begin to put together her own career on her own terms. During the next few years, when she wasn’t doing archaeology in the Alaskan bush or traveling, she spent a lot of time playing music with local Alaskan bands, most notably the two-family band that was formed in the summer of 2014 called the Norris Bowers Band. This band was made up of Aurora, her brother, Ryan Bowers, and dad, Pete Bowers, as well as three members of the Norris family: Jason Norris (formerly of Bearfoot), Scotty Norris, and their mom, Celine Vaillancourt. This band originally formed as a one-off in order to record a live album, but surprisingly, the family band dynamic didn’t drive anyone too crazy, and they found that they all really liked the music they were playing, so they’ve kept touring whenever they have the time. Although it’s hard to wrangle all members of the band, as they live in many different locales, no one minds too much, as their motto is: the family band that doesn’t practice together, stays together.
During this time period, she also began playing with the Hannah Yoter Band, another hotshot group out of Anchorage, led by songstress Hannah Yoter, and including some of the best musicians Alaska has to offer: Silas Hoffman, Forrest Wilson, Jason Sear, and Randy Pasley. They recorded Hannah’s debut album in the charming town of Hope, Alaska, in the spring of 2016, and are currently in the process of working on their second, due out in the fall of 2018.
After her brother, Ryan, also an incredible songwriter, finished his stint at Berklee, he returned home to work on his solo album, with his band, The Brain Trust. Aurora recorded on, as well as helped to produce this album. This album was released in the spring of 2018.
Meanwhile, Aurora has been steadily writing a trove of heart-wrenching songs. She only writes songs that move her, and so they all share a sense of deep intimacy and confidentiality that makes you want to laugh and cry at the same time. They could be described as Americana or folk, but don’t neatly fit into any particular genre description. A solo album is in the works, with release date TBA.
When Aurora isn’t fiddling in Alaska, you can find her building wee homes in Mississippi, hot-spring hunting across the great USA, airstream-trippin, holding signs, knocking on doors and other acts of general rabble-rousement, leaving messages for Lisa Murkowski, swimming in cold water, communing with other people’s dogs, saluting the sun, drinking home-brewed ‘booch, and learning to do and make new things like houses, websites, cellos, and love. She enjoys flowcharts and mind expansion.