For those of you who may not be aware, Your Own Personal Genius was once a fresh-faced music major at Mars Hill University in North Carolina. My principal instrument was euphonium (I also had a minor in trombone). Later, I left to study Jazz with Ellis Marsalis
during his residency at Virginia Commonwealth University. As a double-threat Classical euphoniumnist/Jazz trombonist, I discovered two things early on: 1) There was virtually no demand for my talents, which is why I ended up a writer, and 2) Being proficient at this combination of instruments was highly unlikely to get me very far with the ladies. It was no coincidence that very shortly after this, I grew a mullet and took up guitar. It was the eighties: enough said.
But enough about me.
There are certain instruments that are canonical as far as Our Music goes. The saxophone, of course, is virtually synonymous with Jazz. The guitar is represented substantially in Jazz, as is the bass, but are equally well-known for their work in Rock. The trumpet and trombone straddle the line between Our Music and Classical. Drums are ubiquitous, as are keyboards. As for the euphonium and its relative the tuba, there is virtually no room for them outside of Classical. They may exist in Jazz, but like Your Own Personal Genius, there is only a small space in which we are allowed to ply our respective trades.
Enter the violin. Its Classical cred has been established for hundreds of years, but it has been a part of Jazz virtually since the beginning. Violinist James Palao was thought to have coined the term 'Jazz.' Joe Venuti
was there almost from the very start, working with guitarist Eddie Lang
, and pioneering the concept of the 'hot violin' (not to be confused with a 'hot brown,' which is a sandwich). Stephane Grappelli
and Jean-Luc Ponty
kept the instrument's hand in the game throughout the Twentieth Century. Adepts such as Regina Carter
and Zach Brock
carry on with bow in hand these days, acting as bookmarks for the instrument in the continuing story of Our Music.
And then there is Nora Germain
. I would be lying if I said there was no favoritism in the manner in which I choose who will be the subjects of these infrequent missives. I tend to select those artists who represent my own personal tastes. In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that Nora and I are also Facebook friends, which, as you know, means absolutely nothing in contemporary society. My parakeet, Al Neri, who is far more versed in current slang than I am, called her 'completely lit.' I do not disagree, though I'm wondering if I might need to limit his exposure to the Internet.
Be that as it may.
Nora Francesca Germain is a musician and writer residing in Los Angeles
, where she also uses her super powers to fight crime and avenge the wronged. A graduate of the prestigious Idyllwild Arts Academy, a boarding school in California not unlike Hogwarts Academy except with more modern dance and fewer evil wizards trying to kill everybody, Nora was the first Jazz violinist to graduate from the school. She was also the first violinist to graduate with a degree in Jazz Studies from the USC (home of the Trojans) Thornton School of Music. Others had tried, but none could make it through the grueling Grappelli Grappa Challenge where the candidate must play Stéphane Grappelli's version of "How High the Moon," doing a shot of the fragrant grape-based brandy every time they miss a note.
Nora began playing violin at age four. She was introduced to the violin by her parents, both violinists, and her cellist grandmother. All three were members of the Madison (Wisconsin, home of the Badgers) Symphony, and surrounded our young heroine with music. By the age of ten, Nora was performing with professional bands, improvising beyond the confines of her classical background and learning such important lessons as why roadies smell the way they do. Her mother became a teacher and co-founded the Suzuki Strings of Madison in the early '90's, a classical violin school and Japanese motorcycle club that Nora attended as a child.