Fiddleheads Violin Student Alisha Pearson was killed in an accident on Saturday, July 28, 2007. She was only 10 years old and loved by many.
I remember very clearly first meeting Alisha in the spring of 2003. She had been begging her grandparents, Marie and David, for violin lessons for quite some time and came to meet me with Grandma Marie. Alisha was so excited she was nearly hopping in her seat, anxious to get a fiddle in her little hands. She listened wide-eyed to my spiel on how to care for a violin and what was expected of her practicing. I handed her my violin and she nearly hugged it!
The next fall Alisha started lessons and nothing could ever hold her back. She was hooked from day one.
Alisha always pushed to learn more difficult songs and techniques than she was ready for. She was so enthusiastic that I sometimes gave in and let the keener move ahead. "Teach me bravado," she said, confusing the word with "vibrato" and causing me to snicker to myself. Alisha had a goal to learn all the songs in all her many music books by the end of each school year. And each year I smiled and asked her to start with one at a time, not wanting to disappoint her but to help her bite off an amount she could actually chew.
Alisha had a way of proving people wrong! She practiced her fingers away and did manage to play through some of these pieces even though they were very tricky. Her favourite piece was "Hedwig's Theme" from Harry Potter. I was treated to her latest rendition of it every lesson.
Alisha loved the classics but made a special point of learning twangy old time fiddle songs for her Grandpa David. Family was everything to her and she always found ways to show her love for them.
At one point Alisha joined our violin group and was the chattiest member we had! Her life was an open book and she shared her experiences so easily. Almost too easliy! I had to hold in a laugh at some of her more creative or embarassing stories!
But if I ever needed a volunteer to play a solo, Alisha was there, waving her bow in the air, saying, "I can do it!" Alisha's violin playing gave her such confidence and self-esteem and I was always so proud of her accomplishments. I enjoyed watching her grow up with a fiddle in hand. Violin was her life.
I celebrated my 30th birthday with a disco party. Alisha was the first to arrive in a groovy 70's getup and the last to leave, spending the entirety of the party by my side. She was my little shadow! I tried my best to let her feel included as it seemed she had a case of hero worship. She loved to please and to be loved.
Alisha had a unique sense of style and flair. Unlike other kids her age she wore full length floral dresses and fancy, flowing scarves. I admired her very trendy glasses and interesting combinations of jewelry and accessories, especially her way of pulling it off with confidence! Alisha was certainly unique.
The gal had expensive taste. I joked she would have to make "a lot of money" to afford the violins and things she wanted as most weekly lessons started with her chattering about which book or violin thing she wanted to purchase next. At one point she had her eyes on a gaudy green camouflage violin case I had for sale. She knew Grandma wasn't about to buy it for her, so she made an offer to work for it. How could I refuse? She babysat my son, Ryan, overnight for me during an awards show in exchange for the case. And she did a fantastic job as a sitter, keeping Ryan entertained and busy the whole time. She took every task she was assigned very seriously and always offered her best. And, in the end, she got that tacky case!
Alisha frequently shared her status as "President" of her grandfather's construction company, but, jokes aside, she did have a mind for business and would have made a cunning entrepreneur with a large collection of fine violins even I would envy! I only wish I could have seen her grow up.
When I learned about the tragic and freak car accident that took her life I was reeling from shock. No child should ever die and Alisha seemed to me the kind of person to talk her way out of death. But she was gone and I couldn't get my mind or heart around it.
Soon after her funeral and her burial I had a dream. It was a very lucid and clear dream, so lifelike and real. It started as the typical anxiety dream of a music teacher; students were about to arrive and I was hurrying to clean up my studio in time for class. My first student walked into the room: it was Alisha, smiling with her violin and bow in hand.
Naturally, I was shocked to see her there and expressed my disbelief by saying, "Alisha... I didn't... uh, think I would see you for lessons this year." Alisha shook her head and smiled, humouring the silly violin teacher. She looked me square in the face and said, "Rhiannon, I'll never stop playing the violin." She paused then spoke again. "Nothing would ever stop me from playing. I love it more than anything."
Suddenly I woke and realised it was only a dream. I felt empty wishing it were real and that Alisha was still alive and happy; wishing I would see her in a couple weeks when lessons start up. But she will never again scurry up my stairs noisily and wander into the lesson room five minutes early, keen to get started.
Was my dream simply the confused production of a late-supper, or was it prophetic? Whatever it was, my heart chooses to accept that Alisha will always play her fiddle, no matter where she is or what level of existence she is a part of. I also choose to believe Alisha wouldn't want us to grieve but to continue to love music as much as she did. And I am convinced she is still part of my life and has now turned the tables and taught me a couple "lessons."
Miss Alisha Pearson, you will be deeply missed and I hope our violin community can keep your glowing spirit alive in our music.
A memorial concert for Alisha will be held in Salmon Arm on what would have been her 11th Birthday, December 1, 2007. Proceeds to a scholarship fund in her honour so other children can learn to play violin. Alisha would have liked that. Information at http://www.fiddleheads.ca
Revisit Violinist.com editor Laurie Niles' coverage from Canada of the 2013 Montreal International Musical Competition, including her interview with gold medalist Marc Bouchkov.
Rhiannon Schmitt is from Salmon Arm/Canoe, Canada. Biography
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