When I was about 14 I heard Amy Kauffman and Nora Carter, older teen-aged violinists, playing some of the romantic violin concertos. I thought they were from another world. Bruch, Lalo, Brahms, etc.. These girls played the repertoire with mature, thick tone, wide vibratos; “sul g” moments that live on in my memory.
Around that time I attended the Chautauqua summer performing arts camp – a conservatory-like program for 8-10 weeks where everyone practiced or rehearsed all day everyday. The thought of how much it changed my life was part of what prompted me to found my annual Creative Strings Workshop.
At camp (Chatauqua) when not practicing, I could often be found walking the compound in my breakdancing jumpsuit, carrying a hacky sack in my pocket and a big boom box on my shoulder, except I was turning it up to 10 with the Tchaikovsky violin concerto, Mendelsohnn and an occasional Bartok string quartet..
I knew then, especially after I met (and heard) Ruby, a 13 yr-old girl who played violin like a 70 yr-old woman, that this was what I wanted as much as anything in life – to touch people like her playing had moved me, to play with such emotion and passion and play music that was infinitely romantic.
And then, through a combination of events I don’t need to get into now, it all changed and I became a jazz violinist.
What many people may not know is that I never really gave up my love of classical music. I just knew it would be less practical to try to compete as a concert soloist. In jazz, I could have a place not through virtuosity, but by simply following the natural development of my own creative voice. Jazz rewards the creative, the dedicated, the risk takers. Anyone with a distinct voice can have a place in jazz if they persist.
But the other day I was invited to perform 2 movements of the Lalo Symphony Espagniole, one of my favorite romantic violin concertos. On the same program I also got to do a ton of jazz pieces with the orchestra. Here are the classical movements below. It felt like coming full circle!
(I’ll be performing the full 5-mvmt concerto with two orchestras in Maine this November)