The Fiji Quartet

Back in 2006 when my kids were relatively small, I joined a website called violinist.com. My daughter, then 7 years old, was struggling to learn Suzuki violin from a teacher she didn’t get along with. I wasn’t playing at all at the time, but I was interested in helping my daughter. I had no idea back then what my little internet search for German folk songs was going to lead to. It introduced me to blogging. And blogging eventually brought me back to playing the violin myself, and the viola.

One of the people I met on that site was a self-described “late starter” named Jasmine Reese. Jasmine joined violinist.com in 2003 when she started playing the violin at age 14. Especially from my current vantage point as the middle-aged mother of teenagers, fourteen doesn’t sound that “old” or “late” to me. But one of the great tragedies of the classical music world in general, and the violin-playing world in particular, is the obsession with musical prodigies, the perceived necessity of an “early start” in order to be any “good.” It’s a pervasive, destructive anxiety that mirrors our anxious era: about being too late,  about being left behind. I call it a tragedy because I believe that is the opposite of what music is, or should be, about.

Jasmine ran into this attitude more than once, but she never let it crush her spirit. She inspired, and continues to inspire and lift up many late starters, re-starters, and adult students around the world. I want to let my blogging friends at the Monday Music Medicine Show know about her and her journey.

Both Jasmine and I spend less time on violinist.com these days because we are busy with other things, but we have kept in touch over the years via Facebook. A number of Facebook groups have sprung up in the meantime devoted to all kinds of violin, viola, and fiddle-related interests. One, in particular, called Adult Starters violin/fiddle has become a musical online community for many of us who started the instrument as adults or came back to it as adults after a break.  I have followed Jasmine’s journey through those groups. A few years ago, she biked across the USA with her violin and her dog, Fiji. That trip went well enough that recently she decided to take it to the next level and bike around the world. Her current journey started several months ago, in Indianapolis, and is being chronicled on her new website, Fijapaw.com.

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At first her itinerary wasn’t going to take her to the SF Bay area, so I figured we wouldn’t meet up for a while, if ever. But suddenly, last weekend, she was here, having gotten a ride partway to Seattle, where she will be crossing into Canada and starting the Canadian leg of her trip.

Late Sunday afternoon, my husband and I picked up Jasmine and Fiji from her host family in Saratoga after we had been geocaching that afternoon. On the ride back we learned that their next stop after Canada is South Korea, and the entire trip will take 6 years. Bicycling across Russia alone will take one of those years. And Fiji has her own passport.

We then met up with Jay, a mutual violist friend from the ASVF Facebook group, and Dave, a cellist Jay met through another chamber group, to play quartets in Jay’s fencing studio, where, during the day, he is a fencing instructor and coach.

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L to R: Karen, the author (violin), Jay (viola), Fiji, Dave (cello), Jasmine (violin)

It was amazing how quickly it all came together, and how we managed to have a perfect quartet. Jay named it the Fiji quartet.  We played almost 4 hours, from 6:30 to 10:30, music from the movie Titanic, from Game of Thrones, from The Godfather, as well as some Celtic tunes, Vivaldi, Michael Jackson and more. Fiji sat patiently through all of it, kept company by Dave’s wonderful girlfriend Erin. Until the end. There is a recording of us on the Fijapaw Facebook page, a bit of “Nearer My God to Thee.”


Happy trails and safe travels, Jasmine and Fiji!  You really never do know where music can take you!

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