The Magic Violin

Colin Jacobsen

COLIN HEARS THINGS THAT MOST OF US DON’T. He hears, imagines, and conjures music everywhere he goes. He has deeply studied from the masters, who now talk to him over time. A child prodigy, he traveled on a world tour with Yo-Yo Ma at 21. And although he records, experiments, interacts, and interprets music all over the globe, his favorite experiences are small, intimate performances. That is where the music flows through him, where he makes his violin do what he aspires it to: to sing. He can then see the effects on the faces of those who cannot hear what he hears — the whispers of God.

You’re interested in composer performance.

Up until the early 20th century, most performers were also composers. The ecosystem that created Beethoven was one in which almost all the people in the group were also writing music. And then, like many things in the modern world, things got more and more specialized.

Composers exerted more and more control as the orchestra got bigger and by the time you get to post-World War II, there was a real divide between performers and composers. But I am part of a generation of people who are back to doing both.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with composers who don’t also perform. But it’s also nice that there’s a re-attachment to what it feels like to be performing music you’re writing.

You grew up in this family of music. Is early immersion helpful?

Many of my colleagues and friends – and my parents – didn’t grow up in households where the parents were musicians. So it’s not a prerequisite. But I think it was a plus for me that my dad played violin in the Metropolitan Opera for over 30 years. In the late ‘60s, he came out and played in Santa Fe Opera — that was his job, the Opera. My mom was a freelance flautist and teacher. But what they really loved to do was bring friends together in their living room and play chamber music just for fun.

When I grew up, music was fun. It was a party, it was social, it was connected. I thought, I want to be a part of that. So as soon as I realized that there were small violins for small people, I asked for one.

I was very lucky because, early on, I was a student of Louise Barron for ten years. She just wanted to see me develop whatever talent I had to the best of its ability. What was great about her is she showed me that whether you were playing something very simple or something very complex, the same values were inherent. You should, at whatever level, be expressing something. The technique wasn’t separated from the artistry. It was all together from the beginning.



Photo SFM