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One instrument, different styles and sounds

BY EVAN CLARK | FEBRUARY 03, 2011 7:10 AM

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Most kids growing up experience the angst and frustration of the dreaded weeknight piano lessons or cello practices that were so forced upon them by their loving parents. Yet very few children possessed the optimism about learning music as Ida Jo did, let alone suggesting to her parents she needed violin lessons.

“I was 7 when I began playing the violin,” she said. “But I was 6 when I started begging my mom to play it. It wasn’t forced upon me like a lot of the other kids. I’ve always wanted to play.”

Now 23, Jo is a classically trained violinist. She will perform what took all those years of practice to achieve at 9 p.m. Saturday at the Mill, 120 E. Burlington St. Accompanying her will be University of Iowa alumna and local resident Natalie Brown, who will display her talents with the violin.

Admission is $8.

While the two share playing the violin, they have their own styles. Jo describes her technique as more rhythmic than what people normally expect from a typical performance.

“When people hear the violin, they tend to think really melodic, smooth, or even like a classical or fiddle hoedown kind of thing,” she said. “Instead, I use my bow to create a rhythmic sound with the violin, a style that’s referred to as ‘chopping,’ and I play that style to give it more of a percussive feel to it.”

Brown has her own ways of playing the instrument so that she’s never musically confined. After studying classical music and playing the violin at the UI, she played in a number of local bands, and she teaches orchestra at Cedar Rapids Washington High. She tends to play her violin like a rock star shreds his Flying V guitar and notes the crowd’s astonishment about her style.

“That’s why I love playing so much is because people don’t expect it,” she said. “I hook my violin up to different kinds of guitar pedals and distortion sounds, and I solo with it. I try to make it more of a rock instrument, and while I have classical training, I try not to make it sound that way.”

She is excited about playing alongside Jo on Saturday as well as having the chance to perform original songs from her début album, *Violin Crossings*, released last year. Brown, who grew up in Iowa City, says that most of the album features a number of local musicians as well as different instruments.

“This is our first chance to show all these different styles we can do on the violin,” Brown said. “The album also had 15 local musicians on it, which was great. There’s so much happening musically on the album, especially with crossing over into other genres.”

After all the hard work and weeknight violin lessons, things seem to be paying off for Jo and Brown. Even when the going got tough, Jo always found the time to pay her dues and eventually master the strings, something she thinks every aspiring musician should realize.

“Stick with it,” she said. “It certainly always hasn’t been fun and easy, and there’s times when you struggle with it and don’t want to play. But a lot of people come up after the show and tell me, ‘I used to play violin, and I wish I had stuck with it,’ so it’s definitely something you can have for the rest of your life and can always play no matter where you are or how old you get.”


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