violin themed gifts
Youth Composition Competition Students Also Top Students in School
This is the third year sisters, Fiona and Helena Abney- McPeek from Chicago have entered the Violettes Youth Composition Competition. This year they both received top placement awards!
Fiona Abney-McPeek from Illinois won 1st place in the Junior Composition division with "Sunlight".
Thanks to Performers Music in Chicago for her $50 Gift Certificate.
Currently 13 years old and in 7th grade, Fiona has been involved with music for much of her life. She started playing violin when she was a toddler. Soon after, she began her first compositions, which she played on violin with her family. "Sunlight" is Fiona's first piece for brass. In addition to playing and composing music, Fiona participates in her middle school's Mathcounts, Science Olympiad team and cross country teams. She currently plays in a youth orchestra, sings in the school choir, plays chamber music with her friends and participates in a composition workshop.
Helena Abney-McPeek from Illinois won 3rd place in the Senior Composition Competition with "May 14". She entered Parts I and II separately due to their length. Both Parts I and II were equally excellent, and tied for third place! Helena has won awards for the past 2 years.
Thanks to Sheet Music Plus for the $25 Gift CertificateHelena, age 15, started playing Suzuki violin at the age of 4. From the very beginning, she was interested in composing, and wrote several pieces for violin and voice when she was about 5 years old. She is now a high school sophomore. She sings in the a cappella choir at school and plays violin in the Chicago Youth Concert Orchestra. She's involved in the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra's Composition Seminar and has composed for her high school's musical. Her other interests include math, computer science, writing and acting.
Music Art Cards to Benefit Youth Music Competition
The Youth Music Competition will earn 100% from card profits thru the end of May 2016, and 20% after that. Please support our work with card purchases at this LINK. You can buy a set of all the same or an assortment. We are currently working on more cards, and love requests.
Or Gifts for Classical Music Lovers
Or Raising Children to Love Practicing
Gifts for Classical Music Lovers? 50 Ways to Lose your Loved Ones? The titles make me seem confused? I must satisfy web site blogging word requirements according to SEO gurus that I pay attention to. And some times it is so unnatural to do so, that we might as well make the difficulty blatant. But, I promise they are somewhat related to this blog.
Gifts for Classical Music Lovers? Part of the beginnings of Violettes started when my mother told me to sew little violin purses, to help little girls to love their violins. This has great validity. I sewed the little violin purse to hold a pencil and rosin, but it is also used as a evening purse for young girls and adults, as the rosin pocket fits credit cards and a comb and lipstick.
When my daughter was very young she carried her little lamby everywhere. She loved it. Why not love a little violin? This could be for pre - twinkle children. Or, when my daughter was young and had a clinic with a classical "music star", she told my daughter to love her violin in attempt to tell her to be musical. It's no secret that the female culture enjoys fashion. A little handmade violin purse (makes really special violin gifts - inquire if you don't see colors you want). These are designed and hand made by Becky (moi) in Tennessee, not in China! for made in the USA fans.
Please note a previous blog on raising musical children in interview with Annie Dupre from the fabulous Annie Moses Band ===>>Click here for Interview
As an entrepreneur at heart, I always thought that if I could "can" the way to make children want to practice their instruments, I could be the next millionaire.
Jokingly, the title "50 Ways to Lose Your Loved Ones" is referring to getting your kids to turn on you by trying to get them to practice. I have plenty of stories from friends -one friend says her son actually tried to run away from home because of all the practice. The son is now a multi talented and fabulously creative adult. Let's see how he handles the deed with his children! (I think the brighter the children, the more we expect of them. But we do mellow out with each younger child.)
I hear many folks chatting about so and so's kid doesn't even play anymore!!!... So and so's kid is concertmaster in the college orchestra. And I wonder how I could have done the music lessons and practice thing better so that my kids would still be playing. It is clear that my daughter will get back to her playing when life allows. Meanwhile, many of her dates actually involve trips to hear the symphony. I can be proud of that!! As for my son, sports got in the way, and may always be in the way, but that is such a healthy lifestyle. And when my musician brother comes to town, both my kids love to join him in whatever musical improv session he directs.
To get to my ideas about canning ways to get children enthused: Well, I got it right with reading. I made a point to sit on the couch in front of the kids everyday and read. Guess what they did? YES! They climbed on the couch beside me with their own books. We read both together and separately. We did so many kinds of projects with book discussions ( a different blog).
Following this model, and noting that my father got up at 6AM before going to work to practice piano (or rather to enjoy playing )... It was such a sweet alarm clock for us, and it was also ear training. When given a music tone ear test by the music instructor before being invited to choose a school instrument, old Mr. Figeroid told me I must play the violin because I had a perfect score. I have always been sorry that I didn't take violin, so I tortured my daughter instead. I say this because I just started her in lessons at age 3, and she took to it right away. But I should have taken her to symphony (and band) concerts and let her choose an instrument on her own to let her feel that it was her choice. Perhaps this was mistake number 1 (after not making her her own little violin purse to replace lamby)!!!! When my kids were small, we had just moved here, and I had no close friends for years, and no music groups to be part of. With young children, I also considered myself too busy to practice my own music. But loving my own music would have shown the kids just how much I love my own music. KIDS COPY PARENTS! (I did try to learn violin alongside my daughter until I got carpel tunnel syndrome on both wrists, and I did play duets with her on my flute for a few years).
I wish my kids were involved in a singing group from a young age (before they got otherwise too busy). So many people do this thru church, but our young kids singing program fizzled when my kids were there. My kids always were and still are so very happy when they are singing!! A family tradition, started by my kids is to sing Xmas songs in the car during the whole 4 plus hour drive to Grandma's at Xmas time.
I wish both my kids could have started on a small (portable) instrument first (or at the same time) for at least 2 years. I carried my flute everywhere, especially hiking and backpacking in my younger days. When my son started on clarinet, he marched around the house playing it having so much fun, but the sax and piano weren't the same thing as far as portability. I recommend starting young kids on ukuleles. Maybe if you could get serious harmonica lessons...!
When the kids are proficient at playing, make sure they get taught the various music styles on their instrument. This can be hard to find in one teacher and even at all! Also, put on varying styles of music when everyone is around to hear. If they are interested enough, they should be able to pick up some music styles on their own. "Unfortunately", my kids were reading every spare minute, even in the car and in the pool! Yes, we put in a pool, and the first thing they did was lay on floaties reading in the pool!!!! A funny story is that everyone that visited with kids had to scream and yell and fight with their kids to get out of the pool. I would go outside by the pool and yell, "Let's go to McKay's" (the local used book store). My kids would scream hooray and come running out of the pool. My neighbor told me we are the crazy family. I don't think I could have yelled , let's go to the symphony or let's practice now. There's something to think about.
This can be impossible if you don't play yourself, but play music with your kids. It is such special family time! Otherwise, organize an ensemble so they are playing with other kids. I really can't recommend starting orchestra at a young age. I thought that it would be cute and social, and it is. However if your young child is very bright and very capable, it can be a political nightmare (much more than a learning experience). Get several capable students together, and have the parents pitch in for a private group instructor/conductor.
Teach kids that they can give music shows as gifts to parents and other family, and teach them that they can use their performances as fundraisers for causes. We had some grand times with fundraising opportunities.
My newest thought, only recently renewing my own music enthusiasm - I mean real serious enthusiasm, is seeing if the kids can sit among symphony (or band members) during concerts with or without instruments. It is so thrilling to be among and surrounded by the sound of all the instruments. Many symphonies have intimate outreach performances with small performance groups in bookstores or libraries. Perhaps you can suggest kids sitting right next to the performers during performance!
Please note a previous blog on raising musical children in interview with Annie Dupre from the fabulous Annie Moses Band ===>>Click here for Interview
Do You Think Dogs when Searching for
"Gift for Music Lover"?
Ms. Susan Shor is a staunch supporter of Violettes. She owns a handmade black Violin Purse (or Viola for her sake) which she uses during concerts to hold spare strings, her wallet.... She uses her own artsy pin for the "chin rest". She's not afraid to say it's a great "gift for music lover" and string player. She asks to borrow an assortment of Violin Bags to bring with her when she goes to music conventions, to wear a different one every day and pass out our cards!!! Thank you Susan!! (Our handmade violin purses are in the Violin Gifts section.)
Her own black viola purse is featured below on the cat's lap in this video by her talented son, Alex.
Violia/Violin lessons are time consuming and expensive. It is hard to keep up the practicing. However, getting children started and seeing them light up when they can play a song or join an orchestra is rewarding. Giving the students groups to learn and practice with helps the children develop friendships and prevents quitting. Performing with them in the community (old folks homes) teaches them that they can "give back". Seeing a dog or cat very scared of its environment, scared to be put in a car and to be on a leash, change to be happy and comfortable and finally adopted into a caring home is equally rewarding. Susan says it all feels like you are transforming lives.
About Ms. Shor's Music (Education - a Gift for Music Lover):
Susan was introduced to music in the public school program in 4rth grade in Philadelphia. She picked Viola to be different because all the other girls wanted flute or violin. She loves to play the supporting parts. In college she started majoring in art, but became intrigued with music teacher Mimi Zweig and her husband who were teaching classes about how to teach children music. She followed Ms. Zweig from Carnegie Melon to Indiana University and changed her major to music. When she saw a young 3rd grade boy come into the class and perform the Vivaldi Concerto in A Minor from the Suzuki Books with so much heart, she was hooked. Well, it happened that that boy's name was Joshua Bell! She moved back to Philadelphia after graduating certified to teach both Violin and Viola in the Suzuki Books. When a friend got pregnant and gave Susan her studio to take over, she loved teaching students and never looked back. She ended up moving to Oak Ridge (after meeting her husband from Oak Ridge) and becoming very involved with the classical music scene.
Susan has been in the Knoxville and Oak Ridge Symphonies, assistant orchestra director for Oak Ridge High School for the past 12 years (until funds dried up last year) and helping the Youth Aliyah (Music) Competition by rounding up judges for over 15 years. She also runs the Oak Ridge Coffee Concert series featuring usually local classical musicians in an informal setting. The concerts are free with refreshments after the performance. There are usually 4 concerts per year. She has played in some of these concerts. And of course she has her private teaching studio.
Susan loves to help with the Oak Ridge Symphony Orchestra with its annual free family concert. (One is this Sunday Jan. 24 at 3PM at the Oak Ridge Center of Performing Arts (Oak Ridge High School Auditorium). There are crafts for children and "an instrument petting zoo" after the performance.
Most rewarding about raising her musical children? It was tough keeping them going, and at one point the very talented Alex threatened to run away from home. Now he is playing literally side by side with her in the Oak Ridge Symphony. Alex plays piano, cello and Accordion. Her daughter, Emilie, plays violin and piano and is majoring in that in college. When Susan was able to play the Double Bach Concerto with Emilie - that was a high. (Special Gift for Music Lover)
About Ms. Shor's Love and Fostering of Animals:
Her parents would never let her and her 3 sisters have the dog they wanted. When she was 12, her family was at an auction in Vermont and valuable dog, an American Foxhound, was auctioned with a starting bid at $200 which was a lot back then. No one purchased it, so her family got it for about $15. She and her sisters took good care of the dog. First thing Susan did when she got married, was get a cat, even before furniture! When her daughter was 12, and had to do a "Mitzvah Project" (a community service project), she decided to foster dogs.Susan is still fostering dogs 8 years later even though her daughter has gone off to college. She is on dog number 43. She just started taking in cats and is on cat number 3. They get the animals from the Oak Ridge Shelter Animal Rescue Group (SARG).
Cool Music Purse -un 33 needs our Gifts for Musicians
Fiddler of Hot Country Songs, Sheryl McDonald, special orders her microphone bag modeled after our shoulder rest bags in our " Violin Shop ". She sends photos with measurements of her needs, and we send her photos of our available fabrics. Ms. McDonald plays with Highway 60 - Hot Country - "We play classic and newer country tunes. We’re a band of 8 - two singers, acoustic guitar, steel guitar, electric guitar, fiddle, bass and drums."
Ms. McDonald plays a 2003 Charles Horner Fiddle. If you have a fiddle tune you’d like
transcribed into notes, she says to email her. "If I can find an mp3 of the tune, chances are, I can write out the music notation." Her web site is at Mcfiddle.com.1. Violettes: You are a professional musician that uses a violin mic. You must be in a band? What kind of music do you perform and what groups are you in?Sheryl: Currently I’m playing with a classic country band. I studied classical music in college, and have played in folk / bluegrass / country bands in addition to playing with symphonies. I’m currently playing and singing backup with Southern Tradition – a country band based in Birchwood, TN.2. Violettes: How young did you start playing? Do you play other instruments or/and sing too?Did you learn on the Suzuki method or...Sheryl: I started playing violin when I was in 6th grade. I had started earlier playing piano and clarinet, and also sang in the school chorus. I was taught the traditional method (not Suzuki).3. Violettes: You live in Georgia. Is that where you are from? Is your family there. Have you lived anywhere else?Sheryl: I was born in Madison TN (near Nashville). When I was five, we moved to Denver Colorado, then in High School, my parents moved to the Washington DC area. In high school, I was lucky to hang out with some old time fiddlers and learned fiddling styles from them.4. Violettes: Do you have time for hobbies or other interests? What might they be?Sheryl: Well, besides music (which is a job and a hobby), I do enjoy camping and outdoor sports.5. Violettes: What is your favorite music to listen to? Do you have any favorite bands or musicians?Sheryl: I listen to a lot of music – lots of fiddling, and everything else: country, rock, pop, bluegrass, you name it! Depending on what song I’ve heard lately, that becomes my new favorite music.Sheryl invites us to her show -If you’re ever in the Birchwood, Tennessee area on a Saturday, night, stop by the Birchwood Family Opry on Hwy 60 and come hear Southern Tradition. Shows start at 7 p.m.
Sheryl's band playing their hot country songs (lifted from You Tube).
Gifts Passed on Thru Generations from Cool ( Violin ) Purse -un 31
Miss April Burt purchased a Violin Purse as a gift for her daughter, a beginner fiddler in Canada. April is an amazing lady who, I think, can do everything. In addition to her social work career, she has been on numerous Boards, caters, and is also an artist. Her talent for creating perfect things shines through whether she is catering, flower arranging or painting. She has metastasized breast cancer and goes to treatment every three weeks. To keep active, she has found new avenues for her talents. While able to be productive in projects that her energy level will allow, she maintains a positive outlook through her battle with cancer.
Growing Up Influences on April’s Many Careers:
April grew up in a small community in East Tennessee. She played flute in school and listened to and sang along with Musicals and Show Tunes at home. Her mother enjoyed having dinner parties even though they were very poor. They made sure everything looked and tasted perfect.
April became a social worker for 20 years, then a realtor. She has always been involved in community activities.
After April’s children were out of the baby stage, she started catering small weddings. Though she took a few food classes classes on the side, she went to college for social work.
Violettes asked about fun catering stories and events:
April has had mystery gourmet dinner parties where the attendees are characters that dress up.
Here is a story from years ago about one of her catered weddings in the sticks of east TN -
She charged $250, which was a lot in those days. She was asked to cater to a small wedding party of 50 or so. It was a long drive to get to the wedding and she brought 3 of her kids to help her. There was no water available, so she had to fill up buckets to bring to make punch. She provided the punch, cake, nuts and home made mints which was common in those days. The family only paid her $200.
Community Work: In the small TN community where April raised her children, she was on the Board for the “Community Concert Series” held at Tusculum College. After she joined the board the sales went thru the roof.
The group held 3 concerts per year. She helped choose who to bring to the series. The choice depended on who they could get to their community. Ticket sales and earnings were the direct result of the decisions. When she joined, they brought Chanticleer and Bonnie Raitt’s father, John Raitt, who sung in the original Oklahoma Musical. John Raitt thanked April publicly and kissed her on the lips! When Pat Boone came, he also publicly thanked April and sang April Love in her honor. (Hearing the likes of Chanticleer influenced April’s daughter, owner of the Violettes Violin Purse. She became a music lover too, picking up fiddling as an adult).
Today April is on the Flower Committee, the Memorial Service Committee, she is heading a Refugee Task Force Committee and she is a small Group Facilitator all at her church.
Living with Metastasized Cancer: April has a metastasized Inflammatory Breast Cancer in stage 4 and goes to treatment every three weeks. Her cancer is a type which occurs for 5% of breast cancers with a given of 3 years to live. She is on her 7th year. She keeps a positive outlook, and has found new outlets to remain active that require a lower energy level. She is newly a
visual artist painting with acrylics and constructing 3 dimensional glass mosaics with alcohol ink on glass tiles.
April was chosen for a “Casting for Recovery” Program that brings patients to a weekend fly fishing. Fly fishing is known to be a calming sport.She fell in love with fly fishing, but one can’t do it alone. She now owns all the equipment and tries to fly fish as often as possible. She is even on the Board of the Great Smoky Mountains Trout Unlimited Chapter in Knoxville.
Shop for Violin themed gifts HERE.
We Love the Violinist.com Gift List And this Year it Features Violettes
For many years, I have enjoyed looking at the Violin Themed Gifts recommendations from Violinist.com. And I have wanted to read thru The Violinist.com Interviews, Vol. 1 by Laurie Niles (co founder of the site with her husband) ever since I read about it. We can't do a better job recommending the latest recordings or sheet music to purchase, but we can show you what we have in the way of violin themed gifts at Violettes.
Top 10 Violin Themed Gifts from the Violettes store:
All Violin Styles are designed by Violettes, but there are varying degrees of manufacturing to produce them.
- Classic Symphony Black velvet Violin Purse that also doubles as a gig bag. Our bags were specifically designed to hold the largest sized cello string pack in the back pocket. So they are perfect cello themed gifts. And for that matter, they look like basses. We would love to start an all about that bass fad with our awesome purses! A number of professional string players own this gig bag.
2. This Brown "Retrolette" Violin Handbag is surprisingly most popular among young buyers. We
can only guess because it is brown like a real violin. Each of these comes with a small leather wallet, a key hook, pencil loop and even a special place to keep eye glasses. Well designed with 2 pockets inside and 2 on the back. the bottom back pocket has a divider in it. In addition the bottom pocket has a flap to loop closed.
3. We have a new addition, Chic Woman Plus Violin Purse with a flashy silver lined Black and lt. grey Purse that matches outfit!
Mothers of Violin Players like the brown leather Violin Handbags.
5. Violin themed gifts as wearable art. Who doesn't like to show off a hand painted purse! We love requests. Here is an elegant gold painting with gold jewelry ornamentation. Browse our Violin Purse section to see more choices or request your own painted theme and colors.
6.These bags are 100% hand sewn by Becky. They are the most special Violin Gifts we have.
Here is our current favorite, but check our Violin gifts page to choose your own.
7. There are some that prefer our smaller style of handmade violin purse. The are also amazingly well designed to fit spare violin strings or eye glasses in the back pocket, rosin, keys... inside. One owner of the smaller handmade violin bag says. I was in a store last summer in France. The whole store had purses over $1,000, and all I could think of is your purses are better! They're much more unique.
8. We have had several people either order our violin shoulder rest bag, or a bigger version of it for violin mic storage. The requests send us required dimensions with photos of the mic. See our "Violin Shop".
9. Our Violin themed gifts can start an All About that Bass Fad - Go all out and get our monthly gifts package.
10. Lastly, we must recommend the book by Violinist.com editor Laurie Niles, with a foreword by Hilary Hahn. It is a compilation of 27 of Violinist.com's best interviews from the last decade, with lovely photos of the artists and a beautiful cover that looks great on any coffee table.
Chamber Music Series for Children
by Alison Maerker Garner
Violettes by Becky, a Gifts for Musicians company, enjoys giving you an introduction to Ms. Garner. Ms. Garner has arranged a series of Chamber Music Books for children, which she writes about in this article. Purchase her books and CDs at: http://garnerstudio2.com/publications.
Chamber playing encompasses the whole musician. It demands of its players technical precision, sensory and empathetic response, and improvisational skill that gives breath to the ebb and flow of a communal work of art. No other musical performance medium quite does that and, as it is in my mind, the epitome of musical excellence. As an educator and as a musician, I aim to attain these qualities to the best of my ability, and guide my students to do the same, for the sake of the art. Musical Minds grew out of this passion after years of performing as a soloist, orchestral violinist, and chamber musician; teaching; writing; and research in child development, aesthetics, and cognitive science…particularly the work on mirror neurons and their role in learning. How to teach the aesthetic sense? Anyone can learn technique, but to perform from the head and the heart is a rarer find.
Musical Minds is a curriculum for children ages 2 through 18 that presents and practices music
concepts through sensory perception, empathetic response, and cognitive functioning as applied to chamber performance. Young children are introduced to musical elements through sensory experience such as language, visual art, texture, song, and movement, providing a necessary context through which to understand and eventually articulate abstract musical ideas. Such experience lays the foundation for audiation, a term coined from Edwin Gordon that describes the complex ability to hear from within oneself rather than through the external environment. Sensory experience also prepares the way for empathy and responding to others in a sensitive and appropriate manner.
As children develop themselves on a chosen instrument privately, these building blocks of musicianship are integrated into a musical setting first, through rhythmic and melodic patterns and later, through folk and classical repertoire. These aesthetic responses include imitation, transposition, improvisation, composition, arranging, and ultimately, chamber performance. Intermediate and advanced instrumentalists learn critical listening skills and how to analyze a score, ways to practice individually and within a group, and perform works stylistically and musically appropriate to the composer’s intentions.
I firmly believe music can cleanse the soul, renew the spirit, and heal the body. Musical Minds provides a way a child can achieve musical excellence and a higher state of being through his/her own individual journey.
We hope you enjoy learning about this music curriculum for children. If you purchase it, please tell us how you like it! And let us know if you are a teacher involved in music education or a parent. Please send comments to RMChaffee@comcast.net.
Yes, That's Right Its all about that Bass!
Violettes by Becky is here to start a new trend. I love looking at various versions of the title song by Meghan Trainor. And I'll bet most women can identify with the song. Two versions of the song that I find extra special are posted below, along with links of other good ones, saving you the google.
But here is something quite humorous about the meaning for me. I was vending Violettes at the International Bluegrass Festival in Raleigh, North Carolina last fall, and an endless stream of people passing by my tent pointed upwards and said "look at the basses!!!!" I was temporarily puzzled, as I sell violin purses /gigbags (in additon to guitars, ukes, pianos). Here's what the passersby were seeing.
For a close up---
"Fiddler of the Mountains"____Eva Nell Mull Wike PhD brings us personal gifts for music lovers. She is known as a storyteller and with "Fiddler of the Mountains: Attuned to the Life and Times of Johnny Mull", she won her second author's award from the Judges of the North Carolina Society of Historians in 2014.____In 2008, she happened to meet a man who just happened to have all her Uncle Johnny's photos from the 1950's! Clay Ivester was the man she met at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Warne, NC. Receiving these photos inspired this second book, which is written in a very personal style. Soon after the book release, Eva Nell acquired the old acetate records, which Johnny and his friends had recorded in the 1950's. She contacted the National Recording Studio in Rome, Georgia to restore the music on CD by Johnny Carter, another great musician and dedicated historian. The book includes a description of Johnny Mull playing in a skating rink for a young girl named Dolly Parton. These books come with a CD of Johnny's music, and would make great gifts for music lovers.__________________________________________________________________________________________________Note about the author - I met Eva Nell, of all places at the Swimmin Women Group in Oak Ridge, TN. She is retired as an award winning High School Physics and Math Educator, and enjoys gardening, swimming, hiking, tennis and international travel.__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________Eva Nell's Press Release for the second book is below:____
On October 25, 2014, in Mooresville, NC, Eva Nell Mull Wike was awarded the Robert Bruce Cooke Family History Award by the North Carolina Society of Historians (NCSH). Her new book is entitled "Fiddler of the Mountains: Attuned to the Life and Times of Johnny Mull." Although Eva Nell has made her home in the mountains of Tennessee for decades, her devotion to her family and heritage in the mountains of North Carolina still holds strong today.
According to the collective comments of the NCSH Judges: "This book will appeal to anyone who enjoys reading about life in the North Carolina mountains, who loves fiddle and banjo music/bluegrass, or who holds the memories of Johnny Mull (1922- 2008) dear to their heart. It is the kind of book we wish someone would write about us and our lives at some point ... a publication that is a credit to the person written about.
Wike has told Johnny Mull's story in a reader friendly style and added large doses of unspoken love. She states that he was a favorite uncle and she expresses her affection for him; however, the unspoken love for him is felt throughout the text. She actually WANTS people to know about him, to remember him. She wants us to be as impressed with him as she was and is. Ms. Wike ... we are!"
Violettes by Becky offers this fine book. Another one of our special Violin themed gifts.
Click Here to buy ==>>> Gifts for Music Lovers Local
Enjoy this treat.
As owner of a Violin Themed Gifts company, I listen to music videos of musicians I stumble upon on facebook. That's how I found Nora Germain who plays jazz violin. I love her style. I know that a jazz education on violin is not so easy to come by. I love jazz music, partially because there was access to jazz in the public schools where I grew up; and because my brother became a jazz, then a Klezmer-Jazz trumpeter, band leader and composer.
How Nora Germain got her Jazz Violin Education
Nora Germain is a professional jazz violin player, recording artist, composer, producer, singer, session soloist, and string section violinist. She is skilled in on-camera performance/ sidelining for TV and film, recording for soundtracks and scores, and improvising on recordings or in live performance.
She is currently "playing a lot in Los Angeles and San Diego, and sitting in with a lot of great musicians. I've been playing in some movies as well, and getting to do some more recording soon which I am thrilled about!"
1. Violettes: I understand, both your parents were professional musicians, but you didn’t start with jazz violin until age 16? Did you not come across jazz in your studies until you went to the high school where Marshall Hawkins (former bassist for Miles Davis, Shirley Horn) taught? Did you specifically apply to this high school to study from Mr. Hawkins?
Nora: I had been interested in improvisation particularly in fiddle music, like Celtic/ Irish fiddling and of course American fiddling. I had heard some jazz growing up, but hadn't become inspired by it until meeting Marshall, and around that time, I discovered Stephane Grappelli, and his music deeply inspired me also.
I applied to Idyllwild Arts, a boarding high school, as a classical violinist and as a dancer for my junior and senior years. I hadn't focused my artistic path and was really into ballet and jazz dance at the time, so my thought was that if I could just get to a school where the whole idea is to sharpen a young artist's path, or further focus the already existing vision (and mine was rather vague -- all I knew is that I wanted to play violin!) then I would find a path. And I did!
2. Violettes: You learned jazz violin from a bass player? Did he have a specific method? Or did you learn the theory, and just practice with people that know what they are doing on a daily basis? Can you tell us a little more about how you became so proficient seemingly so quickly?
Nora: It doesn't seem so quick to me! Ha! There are new things to learn every day, even master players like Marshall still say that! That's the truth.
When I started playing jazz, I had a good ear and had a wide range of musical influences. So many, in fact, that I felt a little lost. I wasn't sure what I really liked versus what was just ok.
I used my ear to really practice improvising on melodies and also playing improvised cadenzas. It was a lot of ballads.
For a while, and I still do this, I'd learn the melodies of ballads or play other tunes slowly, pay a lot of attention to the chords and also the sound of each chord and the feeling of the phrase. Marshall and I would sit at the piano and he'd play the chords and I'd take my time playing the melody on the violin, then repeat it with variation or embellishment, and before I knew it, I was soloing, totally improvising, but in a "melodic context," which is to say, always thinking of a melody. Not the notes, or the scales, but a melody.
Theory can be very helpful and it is an important part of the foundation of a musician, but when improvising, the theory of what I am playing rarely crosses my mind. If there is a tune with particularly tricky chords or something, it's good to take a closer look. In general, I go from the melody. Straight from the heart! That’s swing!
Marshall always taught us to play what we feel and to go for it. Don't shy away from dynamics, extremes in acoustic range or tempo or intensity, a new technique or approach, or even silence. He was and is a man of expression, so we all learned principally that way.
Listening is key also! Especially important to listen to things you are drawn to. They lead you to your own sound if you keep drawing on things you like and keep making them your own. And listening helps you to sharpen your soloing, your ideas, everything! If you don’t like something and you’ve listened to it quite a bit, maybe it’s not meant to influence you, or maybe just not yet.
Some people think it’s interesting that my first jazz teacher was a bassist, and not a violinist, but really, in jazz, no matter if you’re a singer or a guitarist or a trumpet player, you can always be inspired by or even steal ideas from one another. It’s not like classical music where each instrument has its own repertoire and if you play oboe and you want to a play a piece written for cello that it may be weird. In jazz, what’s weird is welcome, as long as it swings!
So learning from a bass player was great. It gave me all sorts of insight that helped me develop my foundation and understand the basics of jazz, like timing, the feeling of the quarter note, the importance of intonation when playing jazz on a string instrument, understanding and feeling bass lines, using the bow in creative ways, and most importantly, learning from Marshall in particular is a school in itself. There will never be anything like it in my life.
See Ms. Germain in action in this delightful video.
Watch for Blog Sequel, "More about Nora Germain, Jazz Violin Part 2"
Visit her web site at: www.noragermain.com
Blogger Becky Chaffee is owner of Violettes by Becky making Music Purses and Gig Bags
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