Second Fiddle No More

Amid the high-pitched melodies so common to student recitals, a lower, mellower tone emerged on Whalley Avenue the other day.

The occasion was a recital by students, many of them new to their instruments, at Music Haven, an after-school program dedicated to introducing urban kids to playing classical music.

As usual at recitals by young students, many of the performers on the recital schedule—12 in all—were violinists. But almost as many, nine, have taken up an instrument that used to hover in the shadows: the viola.

That was no accident. Music Haven has been encouraging budding violists.

“The world needs them,” said Music Haven Executive Director Tina Lee Hadari (at center in the photo).

In fact, said another Music Haven faculty member, Colin Benn (pictured), the emergence of violists appears to be a trend. Publishers have been putting out a lot more student music for violists than in the past, he said.

Traditionally few kids pick it up when they begin music lessons. Violists often pick up the instrument later in life after having learned, say, the violin.

A viola is bigger and heavier than a violin, thus presenting more of a challenge for little hands. On the other hand, Benn observed, “viola has more soul.”

“I call it the chocolate instrument. It glues everybody together. And it’s so dark and rich. It’s very mellifluous,” said Hadari.

Click on the video at the top of the story to sample some of that flavor.

Wexler-Grant 4th-grader Kayla Rountree just started playing it. She performed “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star Variations” in a duet with Benn (pictured) at Sunday’s recital. “I heard a violin [before]. But I never heard a viola,” Kayla said. “It sounded different.”

John C. Daniels School 7th-grader Sofia Galvan, who has been playing viola for years, performed Beethoven’s “Minuet In G.”

At first, “I wanted to play viola or violin,” Sofia said. “In the end, too many people were playing the violin, so I got picked for the viola.

“At first I thought it was gonna be really difficult. But it actually turned out really nice.”

Parents and siblings packed Music Haven’s converted repair-garage for the recital.

The violin-playing was a hit, too, of course. Click on the play to watch Lihame Arouna and Aaron Fernandes perform V. Herbert’s “Gypsy Love Song.”

Ian Applegate designed and contributed the Independent outro animation at the end of the videos.

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