If your child shows musical promise, you might at first think it would be less expensive to start him or her out on a violin rather than a piano because pianos are so expensive.
You would be wrong.
According to violin star Rachel Barton Pine, “the best piano you can find costs less than just the bow of a violin.” Of course we are talking virtuoso level here.
Barton Pine will perform tonight and Friday (Jan. 14 and15) with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra at the Tennessee Theatre. Yesterday the 35-year-old Chicago native charmed 18 guests over lunch at the Kingston Pike home of Betsey Bush. It was part of the Knoxville Symphony League’s Elegant Dining Series.
Here are some other insights from the flame-haired firebrand:
- Financial investment in a great violin has not decreased in value in over 100 years.
- Never leave your violin in a hotel room. Too many people have pass keys. You must take it with you at all times. When eating in a restaurant, if you have to use the restroom, take your violin with you.
- When flying, do not check your violin. Take it as carry-on. The good news: unlike a cello, it will fit in the overhead compartment so you don’t have to buy an extra seat for it.
Rachel Barton Pine was a child prodigy who began playing the violin when she was three and made her professional debut when she was seven. At ages 10 and15 she performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Today she is internationally known and leaves for a stint in Finland after her Knoxville appearances. She is the youngest person and the first American to win a gold medal at the 1992 J.S. Bach International Competition in Germany. She has many other awards and has played with many great symphonies and classical stars.
In addition to her jam-packed classical performance schedule, she also plays in her own heavy metal band, Earthen Grave, at rock clubs and has a weekly podcast and YouTube channel. And she teaches every year at the Mark O’Connor Fiddle Camp. She’s performed the Star Spangled Banner at Cubs and Bulls games and has played with rock stars Slash, Sammy Hagar, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page.
I’m guessing here, but I think this whirlwind of activity may be due to the fact that she is extremely lucky to be alive. In 1994, when she was 20, she was in Winnetka, a Chicago suburb where she taught violin lessons, when she exited a Metra commuter train with her violin over her shoulder. The train doors closed on the strap of her violin case pinning her left shoulder against the train. The doors were controlled remotely and there was no safety sensor. She was dragged 366 feet before being pulled beneath the train, which ran over her, severing one leg and badly mangling the other. Her life was saved by several passengers who pulled the emergency brake lever and quickly applied tourniquets to her legs.
Barton Pine, who has had more than 40 surgeries since then, took two years off to recover before throwing herself into her music with more enthusiasm than ever.
She is a passionate believer that people should be exposed to and enjoy all kinds of music. “It’s interesting that a lot of traditional music involves violins,” she said. “And much classical music is based on folk music.” She wants her rock fans to cross over and experience the classical form. “Many people never realize that classical music can be intense and exciting.”
She wowed the lunch audience with a sampling of pieces ranging from Brahms to a medley of popular standards about Chicago. We also were awed by her violin, built in 1742 by Joseph Guarnerius del Gesu for Marie Soldat, a protegee of Brahms himself. She believes Soldat actaully played the violin with Brahms, giving it even more magic. Her violin is owned by a patron of hers, a practice she says is not uncommon with instruments of this caliber.
As if all this weren’t enough, this amazing young woman, who came from a family that struggled financially, also runs a foundation that provides musical instruments to what she describes as “poor prodigies” aged six to 30. The Rachel Elizabeth Barton Foundation also provides financial assistance to string players aged 10 to 30. It currently supports more than 30 musicians from all over the world.
Don’t miss the chance to see and hear this unique talent. Tickets sales have been brisk, but some are still available for tonight and tomorrow. Call (865) 291-3310. Or just come to the Tennessee Theatre and buy them at the door.