Medusa would slay at a Hobbit family wedding. Wielding a sound that would turn classical music
scholars to stone, these four folk musicians are reimagining the Western string quartet. By
inviting back voices previously regarded as too ugly for “polite society,” Medusa tempts us to
redefine what is beautiful.
With their forthcoming EP, Medusa’s dynamic arrangement style cross-pollinates the sounds of
Middle Eastern, Scandinavian, Celtic, Appalachian, and Eastern European music, as well as
original tunes, to create something previously unheard. With this debut release, the band aims
to connect audiences across dividing lines of culture and identity to reveal the common threads
Medusa is Georgia Hathaway, Lea Kirstein, Marta Sołek, and Saskia Tomkins. For these four
seasoned string players, whose collective experience as side players in successful bands spans
decades, Medusa is a refuge for natural creation. Their immediate and electrifying connection is
transmuted through a common string language, a love of enigmatic and obscure folk fiddles,
and their personal stories of navigating society’s liminal spaces.
One of the most misunderstood figures in ancient mythology, Medusa was wrongfully punished
and cast out for being the victim of a violent act, but is remembered solely for her frightful
ugliness and lithifying gaze. Through their personal narratives of alienation due to racism,
sexism, immigration, queerness, and disability, Medusa the band aims to retell this story by
bringing back what has been cast out. Marta Solek and Saskia Tomkins resurrect the Suka, the
Płosk fidel, and the Nyckelharpa - near-forgotten traditional folk fiddles with disreputable
connotations that were rejected for centuries in their home countries of Poland and Sweden.
Instead of a snake-haired Gorgon, they see Medusa as a symbol of vision, power, and
inclusivity, and a source of inspiration for anyone who has been denied their true self.
Saskia Tomkins (she/her) is a master musician of violin, viola, cello and Nyckelharpa, an
educator, and a composer. UK born, she is classically trained with a folk background and a
B.A.hons. in Music (Jazz). She is an All-Britain Champion Irish Fiddler, and in 2022 received an
award for services to Irish Music in Canada. Saskia was the official Artist in Residence in 2022
with Folk Alliance International, and is currently Artist in Residence with British-based
organization The Mixed Museum, which works to preserve and share the social history of racial
mixing in Britain of Black and ethnic minorities for future generations.
Over the years, Saskia has worked with many musicians, including: The Chieftains, Sultans of
String, Jabbour, Uriah Heep, Ken Whiteley, Jimmy Bowskill, Ron Korb, David Newland, Donald
Quan, Lotus Wight, her husband Steáfán Hannigan and son Oisín Hannigan, and numerous
other musicians, actors and dancers.
Her theater work includes spending two years working closely with the composer and music
director of the Broadway hit “Come From Away”, as a special consultant, to ensure the Celtic
roots and traditions were communicated in an authentic way through the score. She has also
worked with The English Shakespeare Company and Michael Bogdanov, 4th Line Theatre in
Ontario, and Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London UK.
Saskia’s current personal projects include Steáfán & Saskia, Medusa, 2ish, Cáirdeas, and
Marsala and the Imports. She frequently performs and tours with the JUNO-award-winning band
Sultans of String. Saskia is principal 2nd violin for Quinte Symphony, and is in demand as an
educator, including at El Sistema Peterborough, Jenny Whiteley’s Old Time Camp, Lakefield
Music Camp, and Goderich Celtic College.
Marta Sołek (she/her) is a multi-instrumentalist from Poland. She was essential in the creation
of a folk music revival program at the Krakow Academy of Music, which allowed her to be the
first musician in the world to hold a master's degree in the Suka from Bilgoray and Płock fiddle,
alongside classical cello. She was a part of the reconstruction and restoration of these unique
traditional Polish instruments from the 17th century, and flew to Pakistan to study with sarangi
masters in order to revive a lost fingernail technique needed to play these instruments.
Marta has performed all over the world with classical orchestras, jazz, pop, rock and world
music bands. She has recorded 14 CD’s in total, as well as music for TV shows, games, and
Marta is the winner of several awards and grants including a grant from the Ministry of Culture of
Poland, the Fryderyk (the Polish JUNO Award) for the best debut jazz album of the year (2015),
and the best jazz album of the year with Nikola Kolodziejczyk (2016). She has also won several
awards at “Nowa Tradycja” and ”Mikolajki Folkowe”, Polish Folk Festivals.
She was part of the band Same Suki and founded the knee-fiddle duo InFidelis, whose Projekt
Kolberg CD was awarded a full 5 stars in Songlines Magazine. She currently performs and tours
with Labyrinth Ensemble, Polky, Moskitto Bar, Medusa, the Canadian Arabic Orchestra, Dr.
Draw, and Meesha Shafi. She was the winner of the Orillia & District Art Council Emerging Artist
Award in 2020.
Lea Kirstein (she/they) is a multi-instrumentalist (fiddle / violin, viola, and cello), educator, and
concert presenter based in Toronto, Ontario.
She grew up in Victoria, BC, immersed in many different traditional and contemporary fiddle
styles, studying with Daniel Lapp, and Oliver Schroer while in the national youth fiddle project,
the Twisted String, and went on to complete a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education.
Collaborations with other musicians have led her on tours across Canada and the US with:
Medusa, iskwē, Citizen Jane, Roaring Timber, the Folk Arts Quartet, and Balfolk Toronto.
She has recorded with JUNO nominees Teresa Doyle, Leif Vollebekk, and with Nuala Kennedy,
and currently freelances in the Toronto music scene with new classical, jazz, pop,
singer-songwriter, and folk music groups, including Medusa, Polky, and Erik Bleich.
Lea is the current Artistic Director of World on a String, a Toronto-based Folk Fiddle Collective +
Music School, presenting concerts, jams, and group classes for fiddlers of all ages. WOS puts
focus on traditional folk tunes from around the world, facilitating workshop connections with
experts in their respective traditions.
She is in demand as a workshop clinician, arranger, and classroom teacher, in communities
ranging from the Yukon to Halifax and the U.S., most notably: Bulkley Valley Youth Fiddlers, Bad
to the Bow Youth Fiddle Groups, AlgomaTrad, World Fiddle Day Toronto, Vancouver CeltFest.
Georgia Hathaway (they/them) is a Toronto-based violinist, fiddler, composer, and educator
with over 30 years of training. They grew up learning both classical violin from the Suzuki
Method, and Celtic and Canadian fiddle with Oliver Schroer, Anne Lederman, and Emilyn Stam.
In 2011, their passion and interest in global roots music led them to study abroad at the Dhow
Countries Music Academy in Zanzibar, Tanzania, with violinist Mohammed Issa Matona. They
have continued to study Arabic and Turkish music for the past ten years, learning from
renowned Egyptian violinist Alfred Gamil, and have toured across Canada with the Canadian
Arabic Orchestra, including performances with the acclaimed Oud player Naseer Shamma.
Always fascinated by the connections between musical traditions, Georgia has also studied
Eastern European, Balkan, and Klezmer music since 2015 and has been a member of several
bands in Toronto, including the CFMA-award-winning Polky and Ontario-Folk-Awards-nominated
Queen Kong. Several of their arrangements, and one of their original compositions, “Under my
Skin,” were featured in Polky’s debut album Songs from Home.
Georgia has recorded and shared the stage with JUNO nominees and award-winners such as
Leif Vollebekk, Sultans of String, and Lemon Bucket Orchestra, and guested with the hit
international folk band The Turbans. They have composed for and performed in stage
productions at the Toronto Fringe Festival and the Festival de Circo in Mazunte, Mexico.
Georgia teaches fiddle and violin from their home studio and has taught at the Suzuki Summer
Music Camp, Strings Across the Sky, and the Toronto Institute for the Enjoyment of Music. They
are also a singer-songwriter in the blues and folk traditions, and they hold a Bachelor’s degree
in Neuroscience and a Master’s in Psychology.