Cami Shaskin

Violin Blog


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This blog is about all things violin. It is meant to educate, inspire, and provide resources for parents, teachers, and students. The author takes full responsibility for the viewpoints expressed here. In instances where she quotes ideas from others, she pledges to cite her sources as fully, responsibly, and accurately as possible. Topics will include book reviews, technique tips, entertaining anecdotes, quotes, jokes, educational findings, instrument care suggestions, violin in the news, repertoire lists, etc.

Cami J. Shaskin graduated with her master's degree in Music Education in 2008. Violin has always been her primary instrument, since beginning private lessons at age five. See camishaskinviolin.com/info for her music résumé, or click on Spotlights for historical recordings. Cami has enjoyed an array of experiences in writing, from penning award-winning articles as a journalism staff writer in high school, tutoring peers at BYU's Writing Center, earning a Writing Fellows scholarship and a minor in Language and Computers, and later becoming a published author. She recently picked up web programming as a hobby, earning a certificate in Web Programming and Development from the local community college. This blog has been a collaborative effort between her and her husband, who is a Web Developer by profession. Together, they designed and coded this blog and its original content "from scratch."

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2021
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Violinist Interviews Books
19 Jul 2022
Author's note: I was invited to watch a masterclass this past spring with violinist Laurie Niles, who also happens to be the creator of violinist.com and an experienced journalist. After the class, she had some of her books available for purchase, titled Violinist.com Interviews, in various volumes. When I saw a list of the plethora of world-famous music legends she had snagged, I was impressed and decided instantly that I couldn't resist! Twenty dollars for two books, well worth it!

Establishing personal context: Seeing Hilary Hahn perform with the Utah Symphony last year, I was in complete awe. The entire time, I kept thinking of questions I would ask her if I were ever lucky enough to talk to her. I was one of the first on my feet after the final note of her Brahms Violin Concerto performance echoed through the hall. I had been thoroughly entranced and enthralled, and I was further delighted when she chose unaccompanied Bach as her encore. I recalled a prior year's post on Facebook, where I had filled paragraphs raving about this modern violin icon, who has been aptly described by my friends as a "total rock star" or a "violin goddess." I smiled as I recalled how, after reading my enthusiastic comments to my husband, I noticed him smiling and asked him what was funny. He said, "It's just nice to see you being all fan-girly for once . . . ."

It's unlikely that I'll ever be able to interview Hilary, but it doesn't matter, because someone already has! And not just Hilary Hahn, but other violin superstars from both older and newer generations: players like Joshua Bell, Augustin Hadelich, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Maxim Vengerov, Elmar Oliveira, Gil Shaham, Anne Akiko Myers, Nathan Cole, Aaron Rosand, Ray Chen, and (as some of my young students would appreciate) Lindsey Stirling.

I've learned so much from reading about the lives of these players. Some get creative in order to stay in shape physically. Hilary Hahn maintains her finger callouses by playing the ukulele. Some have specific topics they are particularly passionate about, ranging from preserving the authenticity of Baroque music (and instruments predating the violin) to recording the work of modern composers. Some players espouse the benefit of participating in symphonies, while others enjoy the benefit of kicking back and playing video games.

Some sanction shoulder rests, while acknowledging there is room for individual adaptation. Others advocate for reintroducing a particular type of shifting. Ruggiero Ricci acknowledges that, like it or not, we are all ultimately influenced by the players we hear. Knowing the truth of this, it was meaningful to me to hear about some of these player's personal role models. For Rachel Barton Pine, it was Maud Powell (1867-1920), a famous violinist I was unfamiliar with.

I was particularly impressed, reading about something Ms. Powell used to do. According to Rachel, between large concert engagements at major cities, rather than take a day to relax, Powell would drive to a small town in between and give that town its first-ever classical concert. She didn't do this to gain larger audiences. That tends to not even be an issue for world-renowned soloists. And world-renowned she was! Rachel called her one of the "most renowned artists of her generation;" this, coming from Rachel Barton Pine, a similarly successful soloist who would practice her solo repertoire for up to eight hours a day as a teenager! No. Pine said Powell didn't give these obscure concerts to gain a following. She just felt it was her calling in life to spread music to as many people as possible! This, in fact, "is what she felt like she was put on this earth to do." Wow.

I'm only partway through these fascinating books. They take on a very personal feel, somehow, as if I'm a fly on the wall, listening to an after-dinner conversation in an average person's living room. And yet these interviews are with folks who are anything but average! This book series strikes me as a remarkable find from an unlikely source, a commercial-looking mass-appeal website. But I guess violinist.com has been so successful for a reason. It's not the advertising. It's the quality of Niles' writing, her meticulous awareness and untiring dedication to her work. Despite some minor editing errors, which are, quite honestly, easy to overlook in the context of such quality, I wouldn't change a thing. I look forward to reading more!

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