You don’t come across too many 17-year-olds who play classical music in an orchestra, but Fahlon Smith is one of them and the young violinist is making an impression in the Nanaimo Chamber Orchestra (NCO), where she has been a member for three years.
The local musician, along with Jessica d’Olivier, were each awarded a $300 scholarship as part of the mentoring program that the NCO runs to encourage young musicians who are members of the orchestra.
Smith said she is thrilled to have her contributions to the NCO acknowledged.
“It is an honor getting the scholarship. Just playing with the orchestra is a great opportunity,” she admitted.
Smith agreed there are not many young people in the orchestra so when she applied for the scholarship she knew her chances of getting it would be good.
Smith said she will put the money towards her musical education. She has been taking violin lessons with Delores Vann on Gabriola Island and said under Vann’s direction her violin skills have really progressed.
Over a span of 40 years, Vann was a member of the Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Edmonton Symphony Orchestras, the McGill Chamber and CBC Radio-Canada Orchestras, the Edmonton Chamber Players and Musici Allegri, the CBC Vancouver and Vancouver Opera Orchestras.
Smith hopes Vann’s wealth of violin experience will rub off on her.
“She is a fantastic teacher,” said Smith.
A determined student, Smith started playing the violin when she was eight years old and received her early instruction from Marjorie Cullerne who has played in orchestras in New Zealand, Australia, England, the U.S.A. and Canada. Cullerne currently plays with the Vancouver Island Symphony. Smith said she took a two year break from violin lessons when her schedule got too busy but she said in October she started lessons with Vann and she’s enjoying getting a different perspective on her instrument.
“There is so much to learn especially with the violin …the technique and how you hold the instrument. Every teacher has a different point of view and after my first lesson with Delores there was an immense improvement.”
Smith said although she loves all styles of music she tends to play more classical because the violin is geared toward that genre.
“I like trying out new styles with the violin but I do love playing classical,” she agreed and added “On my own time I play a lot of celtic and jazz.”
Smith said one day she would love to play professionally in an orchestra but in the meantime she is happy to pursue it as a hobby. Smith is also involved with a local youth group called Kumbana Marimba and teaches marimba classes.
She said when she is not performing the classics she enjoys playing upbeat world music with Afro-Mumanzi.
For now she is busy rehearsing her parts for the NCO’s spring program, From Russia with Love. She said every song has it’s own challenges but it is fun and different from anything she has played before. The performance is Sunday, March 25 at 2:30 pm at St. Edmund’s Anglican Church in Parksville.