Acclaimed violinist Rachel Barton Pine discussed her career and offered advice to orchestra students at both Upper Arlington colleges during an April 5 visit.
Pine, a Chicago native, began playing the violin at age 3 and today plays with the world’s greatest orchestras including the Philadelphia Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Camerata Salzburg and Symphony Orchestras from Chicago, Vienna and Detroit.
She continued to have professional success after one of her legs was amputated and the other was badly damaged in a 1995 accident in which the strap of her violin case got caught in the door of a commuter train and she was dragged over 300 feet.
In a roughly two-hour session in the Hastings Middle School auditorium sponsored by the Upper Arlington Education Foundation, Pine discussed playing techniques with middle school students from Hastings and Jones who play the violin, l viola and cello.
She also shared stories of her rise from poverty to becoming a professional musician who travels the world.
“I started violin lessons when I was 3½ because I saw middle-aged girls — actually, girls your age — playing violin in my church,” Pine said. . “I loved the sound of the violin.
“All I wanted to do all day was play the violin. I just decided that was what I wanted to do with my life.”
From age 11 to 17, Pine said, she played the violin eight hours a day, every day. She said she was driven to train by her love of acting and did it to hone her skills because she started playing paid gigs to support her family at the 14 years old.
“Having that belief and working as hard as I could, it worked out somehow,” she said. “The way I stayed motivated in life with music was just seeing the audience response, whether it was a whole crowd cheering you on or just one person telling me they were moved by the music. I was playing. It really pushed me forward.”
Pine coached students in a combined performance of the violin, viola, and cello sections of Hastings and Jones and talked about ways to get the most out of their instruments.
She noted that louder sounds could be achieved by increasing the string weight of the instrument.
“Where does this weight come from?” she asked. “Your (index finger) is where it ultimately ends up, but where does that weight come from?
“It’s actually coming from all that apparatus – your back, your shoulder, your arm all the way to your forearm and your wrist. When you want to be loud…you have to let your whole arm down all the way to the back of your shoulder blade – the whole thing – just sink into the rope as if gravity is pulling you down.”
Alice Finley, executive director of the nonprofit UA+Ed, said the foundation was “proud to support the orchestral programs of Hastings and Jones. She said board members of the organization felt it would be beneficial for students to learn more about Pine’s journey to becoming a professional musician.”
“Upper Arlington Schools has a strong orchestra program, thanks to teachers who go above and beyond to seek out and organize these meaningful opportunities for students,” she said. “Rachel Barton Pine is not only an incredibly talented violinist, she is a role model for our students in overcoming life’s obstacles.”
Jordan King, orchestra teacher at Hastings, said Pine’s visit offered orchestra students “a rare opportunity to see, hear and receive feedback from a world-class musician”.
“Participating in the workshop with Rachel provided the students with a monumental learning experience from which they can draw countless personal and musical lessons,” King said. “I know students’ eyes have been opened by seeing Rachel perform and hearing her describe her own journey as a musician.
“This will impact not only how we approach our instruments in orchestral class next week, but also how students deal with real-world challenges in the long run.”
King said students at both colleges studied Pine’s life and career in class and were particularly struck by his dedication to giving back to underserved communities and highlighting underrepresented musicians.
“She took a lot of time during the workshop to describe the dedication it took to master the violin and why she is motivated to use her skills as a vehicle to give back to others,” he said. “I also know that the students were intrinsically motivated by the fact that a musician of Rachel’s stature was willing to visit our own community and take the time to engage with them.
“It made the musical insights and personal anecdotes she shared even more powerful for our students,” he said.
Will Fitkin, an eighth year student at Hastings who plays the viola, told Pine he loved feeling the passion and spirit of the music while he played.
“I liked playing up there and I liked listening to it,” he said. “It was insightful what she said about her experiences playing as a child and practicing. I learned that practice is key.”
Edie Hampel, who also plays the viola and is in eighth grade at Hastings, said she appreciated the guidance provided by Pine, adding that the violinist’s comments inspired her to delve deeper into the music she plays and what the pieces are trying to convey. .
“Getting feedback from a professional musician was a truly unique experience as she gave different advice than we had received before – like instead of just telling us to play the piano sections softer, she told us told to think about why this section was piano,” she says.
Tommy Prescott, an eighth grade student and violinist from Hastings, was amazed that Pine could play music from memory and without the aid of sheet music. He said he loved hearing the stories she shared.
Fellow cellist Asha Chaudhari was emboldened by Pine’s advice for orchestra members to have their own styles.
“I learned that whatever music you play, you can add your own expression and really make the music a reflection of you and the composer,” Asha said.