It’s the time of year when the holidays are coming at us fast and furious. We just got through with Thanksgiving and now it’s time for Christmas and all the decorating and cooking and gift buying and gosh! I’m tired just thinking about it. And then we have to make New Year’s Eve plans.
It gets so hectic that many of you may be scaling back your plans for Violin Day. Maybe you’re not sending out Violin Day cards this year, settling for a text or email blast on Violin Day morning, which is Dec. 13. Or you’re putting up fewer Violin Day decorations than you did last year. Many of you haven’t even started your Violin Day shopping or baking. Do you even know who’s hosting Violin Day dinner? Didn’t think so.
I swear, some of you act like you didn’t even know Violin Day was approaching. Some of you act like you’ve never heard of it before.
Turns out knowledge of Violin Day tends to be a bit spotty.
Information on Violin Day’s origins is spotty as well. We don’t know who started Violin Day, but we think it was done by an Electric Light Orchestra fan.
Catherine Michelsen is a violinist. She’s on the faculty of the Straz Center’s Patel Conservatory where she is the string specialist. (She’d never heard of Violin Day.)
Michelsen’s love of the violin started early.
“I saw a student violin group play when I was in elementary school and it completely captivated me,” Michelsen recalls. She remembers what the musicians wore (red plaid vests and bow ties) and what they played (“Grasshopper,” better known as “Bile ‘em Cabbage Down”)
Students of Michelsen will be among the performers at Patel’s Holiday Music Concert, Dec. 14 at 7 p.m. in Ferguson Hall.
Like Michelsen, Jaquay Pearce is a violinist who was fascinated with the instrument from an early age. (She learned about Violin Day from social media a few years back.)
Pearce saw a string quartet playing in downtown Winter Park one summer day and immediately asked her parents for a violin. They said no, assuming a violin wouldn’t last long in a 6-year-old’s hands. Jaquay’s pleas for the instrument didn’t let up all summer. When she entered elementary school, she was thrilled to find out it had a strings program. “It was meant to be,” she proclaimed to her parents.
Jaquay got her violin, but it came with an admonition from her father: If she didn’t practice, the violin would be taken away.
Jaquay practiced regularly. Very regularly. “It kind of backfired on them,” she said with a laugh, “because it doesn’t sound that great when you’re first learning.”
All that practice paid off. Pearce now is a professional musician who performs both solo and with other musicians. She’s performed at the Straz as part of the Live & Local series. Her next appearance here is on Jan. 29.
As a young musician, Michelsen was taken with works written for violin by Bach and Mendelssohn. Pearce wore out VHS tapes rewinding and fast-forwarding to hear her favorite parts of movies’ orchestral scores. She’s still a fan of film scores.
“If I could just play in an orchestra that only did film scores for the rest of my life, I’d be content,” Pearce said with a laugh.
Michelsen loves the violin “because of the feeling of the bow moving across the strings and the variety of sounds it can produce.
“I love the scope of what the violin can sound like in different musical groupings ranging from string quartet to large orchestra to big band to music with voice, banjo, harpsichord, etc.,” Michelsen said.
Michelsen also enjoys seeing her Patel Conservatory students develop their own relationship with the violin, and music in general.
“I often teach students for several years and am able to watch them grow musically and as humans,” Michelsen said. “When they eventually move on due to evolving interests or a new chapter in life, they frequently keep in touch to let me know how music has impacted and continues to impact their lives.”
“When I saw it as a kid, I just thought it looked cool,” Pearce said with a laugh. Looks aside, what’s truly captivated Pearce was the instrument’s tone.
Violins are “the closest instruments to the human voice,” Pearce said. “It was the tone of it. That’s what attracted me. Nothing compares to the sound of the violin. That’s what drew me in from the beginning and it still does to this day.”