It’s already the last Friday of the month, time for the We are the World Blogfest! The #WATWB seeks to infuse social media with good news. This month’s hosts are Emerald Barnes, Eric Lahti, Inderpreet Uppal, Lynn Hallbrooks, Peter Nena, and Roshan Radhakrishnan. Please stop by and say hello!
My #WATWB story for May is about a violinist I met a long time ago on social media, Jasmine Reese. Back when I first met her, she was a teenager posting on the violin news, advice, and interview site, violinist.com, where I am an occasional blogger. As she wrote back then, she started playing the violin “late,” at age 14. I put the term “late” in quotation marks because I think that for most activities and accomplishments, age 14 is actually quite early. Yet in the violin world, she is right. Most of the great violin soloists of the modern era started playing in the low single digits, some as early as 3. While there are plenty of interesting arguments to be made about brain development and neural plasticity in the early years, it is also true that this kind of early start necessitates intense parental investment and involvement, for years, and thereby makes violin education less accessible to many families who simply don’t have the resources of money and time.
I myself was only 7 years old, but in 4th grade, when I started playing the violin in a public school program in Western New York. And even that felt a little “late,” at least in terms of resources and intensity. I didn’t do the Suzuki method or any of the other methods aimed at young children, and my parents aren’t musicians. So I didn’t grow up with music around me. I also quit playing the violin, twice, for long periods of time, which means I can very clearly remember times when I did not play, and when the violin was not part of my life at all. So although I’m not a late starter, like late starters, I feel like something of an outsider–a musical Hermione Granger with something to prove.
After leaving college, Jasmine has taken her violin journey in a very different direction from the traditional conservatory/orchestra/performance/teaching route. She has become a bicycling violinist, an ambassador for music, traveling across the United States and staying with people and playing the violin for and with them. The road is her conservatory, and the world has become her teacher. I had the pleasure of meeting Jasmine in person last year and playing quartets with her when she passed through the Bay Area. Read about it here in The Fiji Quartet.
After a break to readjust and recover, she plans to travel around the world on a recumbent tricycle, with her violin and her dog Fiji. Her story was shared on USA Today’s “humankind” feature earlier this week: Woman bikes across America, plays violin for strangers. “It’s made her realize the world is full of hope.”
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