The Bicycling Violinist

We are the World LogoIt’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 BarnesEric Lahti, Inderpreet UppalLynn HallbrooksPeter 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.

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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.”

Enjoyed this post?  Click here to read more posts like this or enter your own #WATWB post and join us!

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12 thoughts on “The Bicycling Violinist”

  1. Hi KL – what a fascinating story line … obviously a film has to be on the way – perhaps a book first … but how brilliant is that … she can do so much through her travels and link-ups with new friends etc … jamming sessions, if one jams with violinists! But how fun … and good luck to you both for your music and for your future creativity … cheers Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great story. I like this woman.

    [I think you need to give yourself a break about starting violin lessons late. I started in second grade, gave up at age 18. You, however, started later but have continued on for decades, so I’d say you’re pretty much a success.]

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t consider myself a late starter. I included my own feelings to say that I think I can relate to where Jasmine is coming from, even though I didn’t start particularly late. For me, the insecurity is more about the lack of Suzuki-style parental involvement and general lack of musical background until I was introduced to it as part of a public school program. I quit playing a couple of times, when I was getting my PhD and when my kids were babies and toddlers. I don’t view any of that as negative anymore. There’s actually something quite wonderful about being an adult amateur and getting to experience all these things for the first time. My previous blog, “Merry Pranks: Becoming a Violist,” was about playing something for the first time that many people consider standard repertoire. I feel like it keeps me young and keeps life fresh that I haven’t BTDT for everything in middle age.

      Liked by 1 person

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