Violinist Barbara Riccardi was born in New York City into a musical family of Sicilian descent. Following in the footsteps of her brother, Bay Area pianist and conductor Richard Riccardi, she began formal piano training began at the age of three. Soon after, she added violin and French horn.
Barbara credits the fact that she could read musical notation before she could read words to family history. Her grandfather played mandolin by ear. After instilling an enduring love of classical music in his daughter (Barbara's mother), he was forced to chop up the beloved family piano for firewood during the Depression.
Her father, a descendant of itinerant European musicians, shared his wife's frustration in being born into a family whose income did not allow for music lessons. Thus did Barbara's parents purchase, as their first piece of furniture, the Baby Grand piano on which she and her brother began their training.
Barbara graduated magna cum laude from Vassar College, where her studies flourished under the tutelage of Russian violinist Boris Koutzen. At the same time, Casals disciple Luis Garcia-Renart kindled her love of chamber music. This led to a mentorship with the Guarneri String Quartet, whose first violinist Arnold Steinhardt became her sole violin teacher for many years.
Barbara joined the San Francisco Symphony under Seiji Ozawa. Next came her position in the San Francisco Opera Orchestra , where the artistry of great vocal masters became another wellspring of inspiration.
After 31 seasons at San Francisco Opera, she left to pursue a career that combines a busy chamber music concert schedule and collaborations with vocal artists with positions with a number of organizations and ensembles. Barbara currently serves as concertmaster of Festival Opera, and performs regularly with Donald Pippin's Pocket Opera, the San Francisco Boys Chorus and, of course, the Temescal String Quartet. She lives in San Francisco with her five children, all musicians/artists, and an ever-present array of beloved four-legged family members.