• Please begin by telling us anything you would like to about yourself. Age, place of birth, residence, etc.
I’m an old happy man. I have one great wife (tried two but they couldn’t get along), two terrific kids and a great career that I’ve bled & sweated for 20 years to build. I was born in the Oakland Navy hospital in 1955 and have lived several places; childhood on a farm in Upstate NY; West Palm Beach, FL; & all over Southern CA, and have finally come to rest on a 5 acre piece of heaven in rural North San Diego County.
• What made you decide to play the violin?
I have been dying to play the violin for the past 20 – 30 yrs of my life, but just never had the time to commit to it; too busy with family and work, but the bug has always been there, just gnawing at me. Until one day last December, I happened upon a video clip of Annie Staninec & Luke Abbott and was mesmerized. That same day I started researching violins, and after two weeks of research, I bought my first one, a Scott Cao SV-017. I was so excited when I received it! I had been reading everything I could get my hands on while waiting for my violin, that’s when I found Fiddlerman.com,. I realized how long it takes to get proficient at this instrument and because of my advanced years, decided to find a good teacher and work my ass off to make steady and marked progress, because I had to get “there” fast, lmao. I was so fortunate to find Richard Conviser, AND he was in my neighborhood.
• How long have you been playing the violin?
As of today, I’ve been learning to play for 9 months. I am so in love with this instrument; the sound, the feel, the mechanics, the look, and the challenge. I am now at a point where I’m almost happy with my intonation, my ability to read music, and a fair amount of my technique.
• How often do you play? How long are your practice sessions?
For the first 4 months I practiced between 8 hrs – 12 hrs each week; then summer arrived and I’ve become somewhat distracted with travel and business; in addition to my business practice, I started a new business venture with my son which has consumed every spare minute of my life. But even in the past hectic 4 months I make time to practice between 3 hrs – 5 hrs each week. My length of practice sessions range between 20 min.s – 2 hrs.
• In your opinion, what’s your proficiency on the violin?
I’m not sure I would consider myself proficient in any aspect of the violin yet. However, I’m getting happy with a few components of my play; I am decent at reading music, the consistency of my intonation is improving greatly, my hand/finger flexibility has improved (when I first started, I felt like I had Mickey Mouse hands,,, big, fat, white, balloon-like fingers, with a thumb and only three fingers), my “ear” has improved enormously and I’m VERY excited that I am now hearing things I’ve never heard before (musically that is,,, not lascivious conversations across the bar), and my bow grip and the fluidity of my wrist is improving, there are days when I actually feel like I own my bow.
• Your greatest personal experience with playing?
This was actually just four weeks ago and it was mind-blowing!!! One of the members of the FM Forum suggested to me that I consider buying a couple of used violins to tinker with; the thought had always appealed to me so I did it. I researched the crap out of my first item on ebay; I spent 9 hours researching the label, the contents, the accessories and it’s history before I placed my highest bid; this instrument is unbelievable in every sense (I was fortunate to be able to examine it and tap it first hand) so I placed a bid that nobody was going to match, and I won it. I got it home, cleaned off 220 yrs of crust and rosin, fitted a new nut, bridge, tailpiece, and strings, played my first few bow strokes and lost my mind at the sound that was emminating from it; the fullness and richness of the sound is like no other I’ve ever heard in person. And when you play in pitch it sings but if you don’t it tells you immediately, like a door closing. Anyway, sorry to gush, but that’s my most incredible experience playing, and the wonderful thing is, I get that experience every day of my life now.
• What other instruments do you play?
I’m really only proficient at cowbell and shakers. I played guitar for several years as a teen, but never mastered it. Then when I first started violin in December my teacher recognized that I was having a terrible time of finger placement because my fingers are quite large, so he suggested I give the viola a crack. I practiced it for two weeks and really enjoyed the easier play, but came to the conclusion that if that’s the only instrument I’m going to play, the viola is just too freakin melancholy for me,,, besides, I’ve wanted to play violin for 30 yrs damn it, lol. But just yesterday I bought, what might be, a spectacular 110 yr old Italian that I won’t get for several more days. And I’m looking forward to trying that again.
• What does music mean to you?
I don’t know,,, it’s music! Like most teens, I listened to vinyl, the am radio, and 8-track tapes about 20 hrs/day; it was the only avenue available to really connect with the hardship and angst of being a dumbass teen (so sorry to all the teens that may be reading this); then as an adult I listened incessantly to classical music for hours each day because it is so structured and really kind of perfect; then for about 15 yrs I listened to alternative music which I really connected with as an abstract and non-conforming personality. But in the past year, I have been really getting off on Bluegrass because it’s like American Soul, I really connect with it on a more primitive level than classical.
• What or who has been your greatest influence?
I’m not good enough for anyone to influence my play yet,,, I’m just trying to manage my way. I was so poor growing up that when I was a kid, 5 years old, my dad won my first bike in a bar fight; it was a 26″ rusty, battered, piece o’crap, but it was my bike. It was obviously so ridiculously big for me that the only way to get on was from a porch and the only way to get off was to fall off. I was just doing everything I could do to ride it; I wasn’t skilled enough to be influenced by anyone’s tips or hints or style. Same thing, haaaaaaa.
• What are your goals for playing violin? Short and long.
My daily goal is to enjoy playing, and I’m enjoying playing more every week. My longer term goal is to be able to love the sound I make. I want so badly to be confident enough in what I produce from my violin that I can sit with other musicians and enjoy my musical interaction with them. I want to be good enough to let my musical creativity flow without being encumbered by the mechanics…. not too much to ask for, right. I honestly just hope to come close to achieving that before I exit.
• What type of violin training?
As I mentioned, I am fortunate to have found a spectacular teacher. And I know he’s spectacular because I push him and test him and compare him. His style of instruction fits my personality better than any I can imagine (my wife would confirm that I can be a VERY difficult and intense personality when I’m really focused on something); he always keeps me focused on what I need to be learning; on the tools that I need to own, and he is confident enough in his own skills to head in whatever direction I might fancy in any week. He knows it and can teach it A – Z, technically, artistically, mechanically, expressively. He’s a wacky and great guy, who is even older than me, lol.
• How do you warm up?
Put on warm clothes.
• What is your favorite type of music?
I think classical is perfect,,, but my focus recently is Bluegrass.
• What are your 2 favorite things to do other than playing violin?
Uhhh, can I say, “drinking and being salacious”; so sorry, just being a dumbass. Lately, snowboarding and photography. I’ve quit the greatest athletic passion of my life which had been MMA (mixed martial arts); I haven’t hit anything or been hit by anything (both equally exciting btw) in two years now. And just so I don’t paint myself as some meathead hooligan, I clearly am not, I’m actually a very peaceful (not passive), calm, respectful, and controlled guy. It’s just the most incredible sport ever and I miss the crap out of it. So although snowboarding isn’t supposed to be, it’s currently my only contact sport.
• Do you come from a musical family? If so please tell us about them.
Actually yes, but any musical family talent skipped me and went on to my daughter. My mom, who died two years ago of cancer, sang blues & country, my dad played guitar, my step-dad (no genetic influence of course) played lead trombone in the Tommy Dorsey band for years. And my daughter has a blooming (not “bloomin” as uttered by Dick VanDyke in Mary Poppins) musical career; she is an incredible song-writer; she plays a beautiful guitar; has a captivating voice, plays keyboard and mandolin,,,, and, like her dad, plays the crap out of the shaker. She performs regularly in San Diego and a couple of times at The Rainbow Room in Hollywood; and she has about 14 students at the moment.
• Are you a member of any orchestra?
Yes as a matter of fact,,,, the “orchestra of life”
• Do you ever perform publicly?
As infrequently as possible. All kidding aside, I have played for small get-togethers of family and friends, just because they have an interest in what I’m doing. Although one close friend refuses to hear me play until I can do justice to “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”. I actually attended my first fiddle camp, 8 wks after I first picked up a violin, and I had a chance to participate in camp jams, which was quite an experience for me. I learned a LOT in just 30 minutes of jamming, like how to fiddle sync (lip syncing with a fiddle) and how to pick back up and jump back in; this was actually invaluable experience for me. Oh, and I play out back on our veranda for the world and all her creatures to enjoy, lmao!
• What do you work with?
I’m not sure exactly what this question means; I like to work with my appendages….. is that what it’s asking,,, or what do I do for a living??? I am a Wealth Manager at UBS and I LOVE my work! I have developed such a wonderful practice with the most incredible people. Most of my clients are pretty sophisticated individuals and meeting all of their financial needs and questions keeps me mentally sharp (not sure if my wife would agree with that or not,,, okay, so maybe I can’t remember where I put her birthday present, but I can run financial models and analytics better than most, lol)
• Would you please share with us information about your violin and bow and if you have several please tell us about them as well.
This is the fun question,,, thank god it’s the last, lol. My first was the Cao SV-017, then 4 months later I moved up to the Cao 850 Heifitz, both of which I love. But as I mentioned above, I’ve started a new hobby/business venture (I’m hoping, when I finish the site I’ll let you know), so I’ve begun acquiring several specific violins that I think are of great quality; the Matthias Albani (which I gushed about above), a Jarek Wojcek whose sound spectrum analysis is so close to a Strad that the difference is minimal, a couple of 100+ year old Italians, a couple of great Germans, and the most recent, the 1903 Celeste Farrotto viola. I have a couple of Cao bows (one rosewood, one pernambuco), three other very old pernambucos, and my most recent, the Fiddlerman Special CF (I’m so enjoying this bow; it’s so indestructible that I play with it and hit the kids with it,,, what,,, like you never hit your kids, lmao).
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