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Brendan Booher

Hero Players

July 16, 2012 at 7:20 PM

Every musician needs someone to follow, someone to imitate, someone to be inspired by in their musical journey. As a child I first became inspired to pick up the violin through listening to my older brothers play, Namely, Rudi. Rudi plays so clean, strong and smooth, with incredible control of his violin. Rudi, along with Chris, Justin and Ned, had a large part in inspiring me to be the best I could be on my fiddle, through their expertise on their own instruments (fiddle/guitar/piano/bass/mandolin/accordion), their constant encouragement and the time they took to accompany me and teach me so much.

After a number of years, my older brothers introduced me to some very special musicians who have also been a great inspiration to me. One of them is Johnny Gimble, whom I first met when he graced our Family Music Camp (the "Booher Family Music Camp") with his kind self back in 1993. I remember when he first arrived at our family home. I had already planned my greeting, which I said as respectfully as possible, "Hi Mr. Gimble." Johnny gently corrected me with a big Johnny Gimble smile, "just call me Johnny." So that's what I called him, and still do. Johnny spent some personal time with me that week at camp, and I still remember the very tune we went over: Maiden's Prayer. I was so honored. I remember him encouraging me to "play a lot of slurs." Another way Johnny helped me was to encourage me to change the way I was holding onto the neck of my fiddle, if I really wanted to be a great player, according to Johnny.

Years later I actually took his advice--thanks to the follow up I received through Johnny's older brother Gene (Gene has continued to mentor me in jazz, and is a dear friend and master western swing and jazz guitarist, whom I have had the great pleasure of playing with numerous times!). Johnny is truly my very favorite player. I admire his incredible ability in his swingin' to maturely and melodically express his heart through his fiddle or mandolin no matter what tune he's playing. No matter how many times I listen to Johnny play (I've played his recordings more times than I can count!) he always sounds fresh and totally amazes me with his perfect and natural solos.

Mark O'Connor has been another inspiration. I am sure that there is no other fiddler in the world that can top Mark O'Connor. Mark is a genius, and a self taught genius at that! He is so versatile, and plays things that seem downright impossible to play! Then there's Johnny Gimble's favorite jazz violinist, and mine too)! Svend Asmussen. Svend's style is so unmistakeable, like Johnny's. The way he gets around on his violin is extraoadinary, and the swingy feel is fantastic. J.R. Chatwell also, and his superb swing fiddling, so unique, dynamic and tasty!

Other greats who have influenced my playing include Benny Goodman, king of swing, with his happy, unbelievable and unbeatable never boring soloing. Oscar Peterson, legendary jazz piano extraordinaire. Barney Kessel, one of the world's finest jazz guitarists. And many, many more! I hope any musician out there might be inspired to seek out and find someone who you will enjoy listening to, study, and make them part of your playing. I have had a blast doing just that. -Brendan Booher

From Mitchell Perilla
Posted on July 17, 2012 at 6:12 PM
My heroes would have to be Hilary Hahn, Itzhak Perlman and Hahn-Bin. All are phenomenal players and still possess down-to-earth personalities. I had the pleasure of meeting Hilary Hahn and Itzhak Perlman after their concerts at UNLV. Most concert artists who I've met after their performances just seemed like complete divas. All presentation and no substance. But I was surprised to find that they are some of the kindest people you will ever meet. Perlman, having a lesbian daughter, is a supporter of the LGBT community. Hilary entertains herself on tour by creating video blogs that she posts on YouTube. She also admitted to me that one of her favorite movies is Mean Girls! Hahn-Bin, being who he is, truly cares about the music and dresses they way he does because he says it's part of his art and who he is...I find that completely respectable...
From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on July 17, 2012 at 6:31 PM
Yes indeed very true!

When you hear something that sounds, to you, more special and beautiful than usual... you know that's probably going to be another violin idol...

As for me the "clic" was when I first heard Vadim Repin playing (he was the first solo violinist I had ever heard in a real live symphonic concert.)

I have to say he played Tchaikovsky VC (I didn't knew this concerto back then...) and who can play better Tchaikovsky than one of these Russian stars :)

Through Repin, I discovered all of this Russian musical tradition thing (school, great pedagogs and... David Oistrakh wich was quite a discovery for my ears lol)

Since then, I was hoocked and became a fan of all these Russian star violinists. I found they had everything in their playing. Yes, I admit I secretely wished to someday study with a teacher from there... and I was more than lucky in my teacher assignation!

But, I do not want to do any clivage... great players are to be found everywhere. Since then, I also became a great fan of Itzhak Perlam and Sarah Chang :)

Did they influence the way I play as the little amateur I am... maybe (I hope!). Do I play similar to them? Not even in my craziest dreams!

In the end, so many times when I though that it was worthless for me to play, their recordings saved me from quitting. I have to keep on, just in case I could play like 1/1000 of their ability one day...

Interesting blog!

From Steve Perkins
Posted on July 18, 2012 at 3:33 PM
I'm an adult beginner, who stumbled into the instrument by accident. About three years ago I was driving, and had the NPR program "Thistle and Shamrock" on for background. At some point, they played a track from Scottish violinist Patsy Reid's album "Bridging the Gap".

Reid is classically trained, but is best known for Scottish traditional music. As the "Bridging the Gap" title might suggest, that album was an unusual marriage of classical chamber music and Scottish fiddle idioms... with a jazz thread running throughout to help tie them together.

Not to be melodramatic, but that one track changed my life in a sense. It was the only time I've literally pulled my car over to the side of the road to pay more attention to something on the radio! I immediately got my hands on everything she's recorded, and still listen to that "Bridging" album once a week or so today. She eventually lead me toward a lot of other Scottish / Cape Breton greats like Alasdair Fraser and Natalie MacMaster.

Although I played guitar as a youth, I had no knowledge of the violin... but I really wanted to speak *some* words in the language I was hearing. I realized that it was too late for me to reach the same level as someone who's played since childhood, but it was still a "That's Who I Want to Be When I Grow Up!" kind of moment (nevermind that Patsy Reid's probably younger than me!).

I did some research, and it turned out that there was a nice violin shop and teaching studio about 10 minutes from my house (who knew?). So I started taking weekly lessons, and after a year I found an amateur community orchestra that is beginner-friendly. I also found an Irish session at a pub not too far away. When my skill level and life schedule is ready for it, I've love to spearhead a Scottish session someday.

About three years later, Reid still stands as the primary role model in my playing. Mechanically, her technique and sound are the ideal that I'm slowly reaching for... crisply precise and sweet-sounding in fast passages, dark and throaty in slow airs. Stylistically, she's mastered two different musical worlds without getting boxed in by either one. She's motivated me to pursue a disciplined foundation with a classically-trained teacher, *and* explore the oral tradition with fiddlers as well. As an adult beginner, I'll probably never pass muster with the snobs of either world myself, so it is helpful to have an example who stands free from all that and does her own thing. "Hero player" is fitting all around.

Outside of family and career, the violin/fiddle has become my primary interest and pastime over the past few years. I'm very thankful that I happened to be in just the right place at the right time.

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