sound is something left in the hands of the musician who plays it Thayer says.
“It’s like an interesting and complex woman,” he explains. “That’s how I would equate my relationship with this violin. It’s someone really worth getting to know.”
A patron of the symphony purchased the Stradivarius violin for Thayer’s use when he started with the San Diego Symphony in 2004. It was “the dream,” he says — to be told you could pick out any violin to play — and he was like a kid in a candy shop.
“To be given a Stradivarius to play is an amazing moment in someone’s life and to be able to choose the violin I wanted to play was even more amazing,” Thayer says.
And he’s been playing it ever since.
“I treat it like a baby,” he says. “I’m very careful. I keep it by my side like a child. Every day it’s a challenge to get it to perform at its best.”
Adds HPAF executive director Genette Freeman, “I’m fascinated with Stradivarius violins. When you think of the many different artists who have played it, the times they lived in and where they lived — we can’t know its stories, but we can still bear witness to its extraordinary sound.”
Freeman says the Stradivarius Thayer is playing at this concert is owned by the Jacobs family.
“It’s known as the ‘Bagshawe’ after its first owners, a noble English family, who perhaps because of social strife in 1600s England, migrated to Italy in the early 1700s, where they purchased the violin,” she says.
This will be Thayer’s first time playing his Stradivarius violin in Hawaii. He spends the symphony season in San Diego as the symphony’s concertmaster and as a founding member of the Camera Lucida chamber music ensemble in residence at the University of California at San Diego. The rest of the year he travels to different music festivals and performs at other special concert events.
“I have always aspired to be a well-rounded musician,” he says. “That’s why I wanted to be a concertmaster because they get to do a little bit of everything. I get to do orchestral playing, a certain amount of solo playing and a certain amount of chamber music. It’s all extremely rewarding to me, and I think it makes me a more complete musician.”
A native of Pennsylvania, Thayer began playing the violin at the age of 3.
“My mother made me do it,” Thayer recalls. “She was a violin teacher. So she made me do it, like parents do with kids until they reach a certain age and either quit or start to really enjoy it.”
Thayer says he was 15 and living in Spain and attending the Conservatorio Superior in Cordoba, when he started to realize he not only enjoyed playing, but he was also pretty good at it.
After getting the chance to be a soloist for “an orchestra or two” and being accepted into a couple summer camps, he says he never looked back.
“You have to love it and be driven, self-motivated and determined,” he says of pursuing a career in classical music. “It requires an enormous amount of work, it’s very stressful and very competitive. But I feel extremely lucky that it doesn’t feel like a job. I’m making living at something that’s a part of me. On the best days, I’m transported into a different world. I think it’s the most enriching part of life to be in the arts.”
Thayer has been awarded numerous accolades over the years, and was formerly the assistant concertmaster of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, associate concertmaster of the North Carolina Symphony and concertmaster of the Canton (Ohio) Symphony Orchestra.
He will be joined at this HPAF concert by pianist Lewis, a founding member of the Lanier Trio, who has performed at Carnegie Hall, the Library of Congress, the White House and Kennedy Center. He is a retired faculty member of Georgia State University and currently lives in Portland, Oregon.
“Cary Lewis is one of the most accomplished collaborative pianists out there,” Freeman says.
“Many of the finest instrumental artists want to perform with him.”
Adds Thayer, “This recital is really a joint effort between myself and Cary Lewis. Cary was in a trio with one of my violin teachers so he has a special place in my mind.”
The first of three concerts, Thayer and Lewis’ event is followed by a performance by ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro on Feb. 10 at the Hoaloha Pavilion at Mauna Lani Resort; and an opera, pop and crossover concert by ULTIMI-3 Tenors May 17 at the Palace Theater in Hilo and May 19 at the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel.
“We at HPAF are dedicated to bringing top-quality artists and concerts to Hawaii Island,” Freeman says. “That’s why we’ve scheduled this Stradivarius concert, the appearance by Jake Shimabukuro and the fabulous ‘Three Tenors’ concert. Even though our main (festival) takes place every summer in July, we don’t want people to forget about us the rest of the year.”
Tickets for tonight’s intimate concert are limited; admission is $70 per person, which includes wine and pupus.
For more information or to purchase tickets, call 3337378 or visit www.Hawaiiperformingartsfestival.org/ tickets.
“I’m fascinated with Stradivarius violins. When you think of the many different artists who have played it, the times they lived in and where they lived — we can’t know its stories, but we can still bear witness to its extraordinary sound.” — Genette Freeman
Pianist Cary Lewis will be joining violinist Jeff Thayer.