“When I am on stage playing, I feel so at ease and peaceful, the music bringing about so many different feelings from within,” sophomore violinist Emma Levinbook explained. This is how Emma feels when she picks up her violin and starts to play. Emma has played for the Kingswood Oxford orchestra for over five years now, since sixth grade, and has earned a spot in the first violin section.
However, Emma first began playing the violin since she was four years old. It was her mother who proposed the idea of playing an instrument to Emma and her older brother, Ethan. “I never even thought about playing an instrument,” she said, “but my mom wanted me to start, and I have grown to love and appreciate the fact that she urged me to start earlier because now I have more experience and I am a more developed player.”
Both Emma and Ethan wanted to play the violin at first. However, Emma said that their mom did not want there to be any competition between them, so she made them choose different instruments. Ethan ended up giving in and letting his younger sister play the instrument she wanted while he switched to the cello. He is still an avid cello player to this day.
Emma started violin at the Hartt School of Music through the University of Hartford. There, she learned the basics: how to hold the actual instrument, bow hold techniques, and the simplest form of playing the violin, which was plucking each string to create different sounds. Since then, Emma has completely devoted a great amount of time to playing the violin. “The effort she puts into the violin is unmatched to anyone I know who plays an instrument,” one of Emma’s closest friends sophomore Katharine Doar said. Emma takes private lessons every Tuesday and practices with the West Hartford symphony every Wednesday after school. On Saturdays, she plays with Virtuosi orchestra through the Hartt School of Music.
Even with seemingly little time to do so, Emma still manages to play field hockey in the fall as a part of the junior varsity team and maintain the highest GPA in the sophomore class. “It’s hard, especially in the fall with field hockey, but I miss practice on Tuesdays because of violin,” Emma said. “The good thing is that the orchestra is in the morning on Saturdays, so I can make it to my Saturday games as they usually happen in the afternoon.”
Emma said she finds great joy in playing the violin despite her rigorous schedule, and even though it’s hard work, she said it pays off in the end. Her favorite part about playing is hearing older violinists play as this gives her a goal to strive for that she eventually meets with time and effort. “Hearing older kids and adults play these pieces that I can now play is rewarding because I can play a variety of different pieces with a variety of different tones,” she said. “I record the pieces I play while practicing, so being able to listen to my final product after working hard on the piece is really rewarding.”
One of Emma’s most favorite pieces to listen to is the first two movements of Piano Trio No.1 in D minor by Felix Mendelssohn. “I love how this piece includes not only the violin but the cello and piano,” Emma said. “It’s really calming music that I listen to while studying, and it helps me do my homework.” Although she loves Mendelssohn, her favorite composer is actually Gabriel Fauré. “He is a French composer and contributed to the Impressionist age of classical music, which is one of my favorite genres of classical music,” she said.
The violin does so much more for Emma than meets the eye. It has taught her discipline, time management, and prioritizing, among other important life lessons. Emma also claims the violin also gives her a little advantage in her academics. According to Emma, learning to memorize vocab words is the same process for her as learning to play her instrument. “I have a better memory because of the violin,” she said. “Learning bow strokes, pieces and fingering gives me an advantage in school when I am looking to understand certain concepts and memorize certain things.”
Emma plans to continue playing the violin through high school and even into college, where she hopes to join either a community orchestra or at least a more relaxed orchestra. This way, she said she can keep up with her practice while having time to focus on other priorities as well.