Courage at Twilight: The Joy of Violins

Mom’s elementary school music teacher Mr. Jeppesen hosted a music open house to which he invited all the children and their parents. One by one the teacher brought each child, including Mom, a 4th grader, to the piano where he sat.  “He was an older man, shorter, kind of hunched over.  He was a very good pianist, and he was very kind to me,” Mom remembered with fond appreciation.     Jeppesen plunked a few notes on the piano, and asked Mom to sing them.  The teacher then told Mom and her parents that she should play the violin.  Her father, Wallace, agreed, and took Mom to the music store to buy a very used violin, still at considerable expense for the struggling family.  Mom was a slight child, and the music store employee suggested a half-size or three-quarter-size violin.  Wallace said they would take a full-size violin, which is what Mom learned to play on, and grew into.  “We lived way out in the country, with no cultural advantages,” Mom explained about her joy to be playing the violin.  Sometime later, when Mom needed a better violin, Wallace found her one.  This is the violin she grew up with, played at the University of Utah, and took to Brazil in 1972 when she and Dad led a group of about 100 Church missionaries for three years.  At the end of their mission, they packed the violin in a shipping crate with other belongings, but upon opening the crate in New Jersey, the violin was gone.  The family pooled resources for Mom to purchase another violin.  With that instrument, she played in several community orchestras, including Highland Park (NJ), Bound Brook (NJ), Washington Square (NJ), and Murry (UT).  Covid-19 canceled rehearsals and concerts, and put an end to Mom’s public career.  She pulls out her violin once in a while, like during the Christmas holiday.  My granddaughter’s parents suggested Lila might like a violin, so I made one for her out of a cracker box, a yard stick, packing tape, spray paint, thumb tacks, and string.  And she loved it.  Pretending to stroke her strings with a red soda straw, Lila stood entranced as Mom played her real violin to her little great-granddaughter.  Mom just may have inspired another generation of Baker violinists.

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