Choose artist...

Top 10 for Sep

Rachel Barton Pine performs and speaks at the Purdue University Northwest Sinai Forum /

Bookmark and Share

World-renowned violinist Rachel Barton Pine performs Sunday at the Purdue University Northwest Sinai Forum at its Westville campus.
Violinist speaks at PNW forum and starts, ends presentation on high notes's Doug Ross writes….Rachel Barton Pine, a former child prodigy on the violin, is working to help young musicians in their early careers.

Pine, who started playing the violin at age 3, performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at age 10. At age 17, she became the first American — and the youngest ever — to win a gold medal at the International Johann Sebastian Bach Competition in Leipzig, Germany.

While she was performing in Germany, an Englishman saw a sign for the competition and attended the performance. He had been considering taking his own life, he told Pine, and her performance of Bach changed his mind. “It was inspiring for me to continue playing Bach and to continue doing that work.”

Pine spoke as part of the Purdue University Northwest Sinai Forum and performed some compositions on her 1742 violin to illustrate her points.

When Pine first took up the violin, it was after seeing middle school children perform. “My mom was suspicious at first whether I had an ulterior motive because these violinists had those fine and flowing dresses.” Later, she started signing school papers, “Rachel Violinist.”

At age 5, Pine went to a nursing home with fellow Sunday school students who were singing carols. It was quickly apparent that kids were singing in keys that didn’t match the keys she learned, so she went a different route, performing by herself.

A nurse stopped her in one room and told her, “We believe he was capable of speaking, but he was very upset that his family had moved him here to this nursing home, and he hasn’t spoken a word since he arrived.” Pine played, and he spoke, saying he had also performed on the violin. “Oh, my violin was magic!”

She talked of meeting a patient who had burns over about 75% of her body. “I played something that I hoped was soft and soothing, and the nurses said it was the first time she had fallen asleep without the help of pharmaceuticals. It just showed the power of live music.”

For any performers who might experience stage fright, she said, it’s a natural reaction, part of the fight-or-flight instinct when there’s a threat to self. “Of course, you have to give yourself” during a performance, but it’s not supposed to be all about you. “It’s more about you and the audience experiencing the music,” she said. “I just happen to be the one playing the notes.”

“It’s just about me playing for each and every individual in the audience,” Pine said.

Pine’s dedication to her music was hard on her during her early childhood. She lived in Chicago and went to the suburbs each day for lessons. Homework was done in the car on the way to lessons, and her dinner was in the car on the way home.

Wayel Kaakaji and his daughter, Lillian, both of Valparaiso, meet acclaimed violinist Rachel Barton Pine following her "wonderful" presentation Sunday at the Purdue University Northwest Sinai Forum at the Westville campus.

The foundation also loans high-quality instruments to young musicians and grants to help young musicians pay expenses. She cited the example of a youngster accepted to Julliard whose mother couldn’t afford the gas money to get her daughter to the lessons.