Violinist Sabien plans series of stops from July 16-20

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By Shelly Birkelo/Special to The Gazette
Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Musician Randy Sabien is giving Rock County music enthusiasts a chance to jazz up their summers during his planned five-day visit to Beloit and Janesville this month.

The international recording artist and jazz violinist will make three public appearances—one in Beloit and two in Janesville, said Ian Nie, founder and director of the Turtle Creek Chamber Orchestra. The TCCO is bringing Sabien in as part of its sixth season celebration.

Sabien will rehearse with the orchestra Monday, July 17 at Roxbury Church of Christ in Janesville; he will be the main attraction at a workshop Tuesday, July 18 at Knapton Musik Knotes in Janesville, and he will be the featured clinician Sunday-Thursday, July 16-20 for the orchestra's summer youth strings camp. Sabien also will take part in a meet-and-greet event Thursday, July 20 at Fruzen Intermediate School in Beloit, Nie said.
Rheanna Weaver is counting down the days.

“It'll definitely be the highlight of my summer,” said the 16-year-old, who will be a junior at Beloit Memorial High School this fall. “I believe I'll learn a lot of different techniques and new ways of approaching music.”

A member of the local orchestra and a cello player with eight years of experience, this camp won't be Rheanna's first gig.

“It's a very welcoming space to create and make new friends,” she said of the camp. “I have a lot of fun, and it's something I look forward to all year.”

Sabien specializes in improv performance, and Rheanna hopes he can teacher her how to approach it without being afraid.

“It's something I'm not comfortable with, but hopefully I can expand my knowledge to become more comfortable with just playing something off the top of my head,” she said.

Rheanna's in luck. Along with moving students outside the classical realm of music, Sabien said he will teach them “how to make stuff up without having music in front of them.”

He plans to do that by exploring creative rhythms with the bows of students' string instruments (violin, viola and cello for bass), by watching what they do with their left hands and by adding some ornamentation that goes into making American pop music.

“I like to open the door to a style of doing something new—a way of playing your instrument different than you usually do,” Sabien said.

Other professional teachers and staff from the camp will join Sabien during his lessons. The other teachers will offer daily workshops for beginner, intermediate and advanced students who will learn about instrument bowing, rhythm, technique and style, music history and musical scores.

For those not familiar with Sabien's work, he is a pioneer in modern string education with more than 40 years of experience.

“I started the first jazz string camp in the country for teachers and students in 1978 at Shell Lake Arts Center (in Shell Lake, Wisconsin),” he said.

A native of Rockford, Illinois, and a graduate of UW-Eau Claire, the 60-year-old Sabien now leads the strings department for McNally Smith College of Music, St. Paul, Minnesota. He has been involved in various strings camps over the years and is currently working with Strings Without Boundaries, a program taking place later this month at the University of Nebraska in Omaha.

“It's a whole faculty of string players who perform all styles of music,” he said.

Along with being a freelance musician, Sabien also performs with a variety of different groups—some as a leader, others as a sideman.

“All weekends are up for grabs for playing gigs and public workshops,” he said.

Nie said Sabien will help the Turtle Creek Chamber Orchestra in its mission of providing students a better understanding of music.

“The main purpose (of the camp) is to give our students an opportunity to stimulate their minds, to go above and beyond Beloit and Wisconsin, and to see that it is possible to make a career in music from very humble beginnings,” he said.

According to his biography, Sabien has more than 35 years of performing experience as a contemporary violinist. His background includes touring with American folk singer/songwriter Jim Post, recording with folk singer Greg Brown, appearing on “Austin City Limits” with singer Kate Wolf and on “A Prairie Home Companion,” performing with fellow musician Corky Siegel and leading his own bands featuring triple fiddles.

Sabien also founded the string department at the Berklee College of Music in Boston and authored the groundbreaking jazz method for strings, “Jazz Philharmonic.”

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