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Stringing Along

Marquette eighth-grader already a violin veteran

January 29, 2012
By JOHANNA BOYLE - Journal Ishpeming Bureau ( , The Mining Journal

MARQUETTE - At the age of 13, Jarynn Stewart has already spent much of her life building her musical resume.

"When I was 4 years old, my mom thought I should play an instrument," Stewart said.

Now an eighth-grader at the Bothwell Middle School, Stewart has been playing violin for most of her life and in recent years has played with a number of ensembles, all because, for her, music is fun.

Article Photos

From left, Jarynn Stewart, Eric Banitt, Ricky Vermeulen and Cassidy Calderwood perform as the string quartet La Belle Musique. (Journal photo by Matt Keiser)

"You can learn a lot," she said. "You can keep doing it your whole life.

"It's a lot of fun to just play music."

Starting with private lessons at the age of 4, Stewart first learned to play by ear, copying music she heard others play, a talent she says comes in helpful.

"I can tell what people are playing. I can hear it and then play it back to them. I've always been able to do it. It's really useful for different things," she said.

Although the talent is now useful in workshops where musicians might transfer folk music pieces just by hearing them and memorizing them, Stewart also learned to read music, which is a skill she uses in the various groups she plays with.

Starting with the Bothwell Middle School orchestra in sixth grade, she has also played with the Northern Michigan University orchestra, as well as ensembles at the Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp.

"It was interesting to be with a bunch of older people who have been playing for a bunch more years than I have," she said of participating in the NMU orchestra.

She has also played at area music festivals and performed on CDs with her mother Corinne Rockow, a local singer and storyteller.

Most recently, Stewart and a select group of other students from Marquette County had the chance to play for the Michigan All State ensembles, which includes the best music students from across the state. The group traveled to Grand Rapids to play in the ensembles, which included middle and high school bands, a jazz band and middle and high school orchestras. Stewart played in the first violins for the All State Middle School Orchestra.

To participate in the all state program, Stewart and the other students had to audition and be selected out of thousands of other musicians. For the concert, the young musicians only had a handful of hours to rehears together before performing for the Michigan Music Conference.

Besides preparing the various pieces, Stewart said the group also learned different playing techniques and skills.

"It was a good experience to learn to be under people who know more than you," she said of working with the top middle school musicians in the state. "Learning from students can sometimes be better than learning from one adult teacher."

Locally, Stewart and three friends - Eric Banitt, Ricky Vermeulen and Cassidy Calderwood - have performed as a string quartet called La Belle Musique, practicing weekly outside of school and performing for various events around town. Although the group has since disbanded due to scheduling issues, playing and performing together for the past six months have allowed the four musicians to learn more about working as a small ensemble, as well as performing regularly in public.

With plans of participating in the Marquette Senior High School orchestra program next year, Stewart practices around a half hour a day.

Although she isn't quite sure what she wants to do after high school, Stewart said she hoped to make music a part of her life for the rest of her life.

"I want to keep playing my who life," she said. "I might want to teach kids to play when I'm older."

Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her email address is



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