I am a returner.
I started violin lessons and piano lessons at the age of 5. When I left home for college in 1983, I kept up with piano as a staff accompanist in the Music Department at Hope College, and as a jazz performer, mostly in a trio with a great bassist (my brother Francis) and a very fine trumpet player (Kevin Watt). But at that time I gave up the violin entirely. Kevin became well-known as a musician and as a band-leader in the US Army.
In 2009, when my daughter started violin lessons, I decided to pick it up again and see what might be possible within the constraints of career, family, and continuing involvement in the local jazz scene as a pianist.
I now enjoy the violin thoroughly, partly because the quality of instruction that I (and my daughter) receive is so much higher than what I received as a child. I have performed several pieces in mixed "adults-only" type recitals and I feel that I should be able to put together some kind of recital. But when?
I have also performed occasionally in community orchestras as a violist and violinist. Presently I am the concertmaster of Blacksburg Community Strings. For exactly one semester I played viola with the New River Valley Symphony, but then the pandemic hit, and the orchestra emerged from the other side with a new director who has decided not to accept auditions from community members; my daughter is among their violinists, so I can only enjoy that particular activity vicariously. I have performed as a violin soloist with Blacksburg Community Strings, too. I played the Beethoven F Major Romance, and earlier this year I performed the entire Bach Double with a fine college-age violinist, Delaney Brown.
I have taught jazz piano in the past, but I don't really need more to do right now.
I live in Blacksburg, Virginia, where my wife and I are both members of the Virginia Tech chemistry faculty. I teach our first-year laboratory course for chemistry majors and an advanced-topic graduate course. My research areas are organic chemistry and polymer chemistry. My wife's expertise is in X-ray crystallography, and she is a leader in the American Crystallographic Association (ACA). We have two daughters, one who plays violin (as already mentioned), and one who plays cello. During the pandemic we spent some time working on Beethoven string trios, especially Op. 3.
Under the "Highlands Jazz" brand, I performed regularly for about 15 years, mostly in trios or duos. The Highlands Jazz Quintet recorded a CD in 2012. Highlands Jazz performs regularly at Mountain Lake Lodge in Pembroke, VA, which is where "Dirty Dancing" was filmed. I even managed to play jazz violin on a handful of our gigs. I can recommend the Fishman V200 pickup and the Boss ME-80 multi-effects device. Highlands Jazz no longer rehearses regularly, so I joined another jazz group that gets together almost weekly, and I feel that I am improving once again. The group has named itself The Tanvano Quintet, for the moment.
My most recent venture is chamber music. I've joined a lovely group that enjoys getting together on weekend mornings and playing mostly quartets -- although we were able to play a couple of cello quintets one day with my daughter as the 2nd cellist. Most of my chamber playing is on viola. Over the past several months we've been through all the Mendelssohn, Beethoven through Op. 95, and we even managed two viola quintets (Mozart G Minor and Brahms Op. 111) and the two Brahms Sextets!
Obviously I spend a lot of my spare time on music but I also enjoy hiking, family-style cooking (my stir-fry is insanely good), and woodworking (furniture, built-ins, home carpentry, etc.)
Feel free to contact me at my regular email:
pdeck AT vt.edu