Was violin the first instrument you played as a kid?
“Yes, the violin was the first. My Mom taught violin in our home so my commute to lessons was down one flight of red shag carpet. Playing was just part of my day as long as I can remember. Before I started school I assumed everyone played the violin because every kid that came to our place had one.”
How did your mother, Lucille Lewis, influence your taste in music?
“My Mom definitely played a massive role in my lasting appreciation for classical music. We were immersed in it at birth. I remember as a kid we had these two huge square black ottomans that were filled with classical records that my Mom would listen to all the time. Attending classical concerts was a regular part of our weekends.”
What do you remember about performing live for the first time?
“As a kid I loved performing. As a young adult, while getting my degree, I used to get pretty nervous – bow-bouncing kind of nervous. It’s actually what drove me to branch out from only playing classical violin and start dabbling at fiddling, at age 21. The summer before my fourth year at UVIC, I decided to answer an ad in the Georgia Straight from a band looking for a violin player. Their banjo player was leaving to join a full-time gig with The Paperboys and they wanted to replace him for a house gig they did every Thursday at the Savage Beagle in Whistler. I auditioned, they offered me the gig, and that was the start of me playing plugged in. Of course I didn’t realize at the time that answering that ad would turn into a long career in bands and even a record deal.”
What’s the most memorable gig you’ve ever done?
“I’ll take this as ‘memorable’ in a good way. I think it would have to be a show I did in New York City at a place we’d play called the Rodeo Bar. We noticed Jimmy Fallon was there watching the show so we invited him up to sing a song with us, and he did. Someone took a photo of him singing and me playing alongside him. That was a keeper in the memory bank.”
Your bio on langleymusic.com says that from 1995-2007, you developed a performance career as the fiddle player for a Nettwerk recording artist, performing over 2,000 live shows, recording seven CDs. Who’s that artist?
“The Clumsy Lovers.”
What was it like performing with Chris Isaak and Taylor Swift?
“Just to clarify, we (The Clumsy Lovers) opened up for both those artists, I wasn’t playing in their bands, but we did share a greenroom with Miss Swift. Chris Isaak got his own. The Taylor Swift show was at Boise State University in Idaho and at the time she wasn’t really on my radar, but I must have already been late to that party because she filled the place. Still gets me cred with my students and kids.”
You grew up in Surrey and now live in Cloverdale. What is it about Surrey that keeps you in the city?
“Yep, born and raised. It just felt right settling down here when I stopped touring. I actually only live about five minutes from the home I grew up in. It also worked out that I fell in love with a guy from South Surrey who was willing to move to Cloverdale with me.”
What was your first concert-going experience?
“INXS, the Kick album tour, 1988 at the Pacific Coliseum. It was a big deal for me. My older brother took me on the bus and I ended up sitting next to some guys with a flask, one who ended up attacking the bus driver right before our stop. It was a memorable night, the first part being memorable in a bad way.”
If you had to name three “desert island” albums, what would they be, and why?
“Van Morrison, Moondance, because I could listen to that voice all day, and I assume I would be on this deserted island for a while right? Green Day’s Dookie, because we all like to rock out sometimes, especially if we are indefinitely deserted on an island. And the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s, because it never gets old.”
Tell me more about your teaching career. What keeps you going in that side of music?
“I started teaching a few kids when I was 14 years old, because my Mom would give me students on her waitlist. They were guaranteed to eventually get to her if they went through me first, and I was a lot cheaper. My Mom would give my students group lessons every month and include them in her recitals, which let her keep an eye on how I was doing teaching them. This went on for years, and I was able to build my own studio of students eventually. With the exception of a seven-year teaching hiatus to tour around 2001, I am still at it. It’s been amazing to see some of these kids (who are now adults) carve out their own professional careers in music performing, teaching, composing, recording. I even have a former student who just got hired on in the VSO. I started teaching the fiddle program at Langley Community Music School (langleymusic.com) when my son was born 12 years ago, and six years ago I was hired by the Surrey Youth Orchestra (Surreyyouthorchestra.com) to conduct one of their string orchestras, which has since grown into an additional orchestra for me. Between it all I have had the opportunity to work with about 130 different kids every week, and I wouldn’t trade that opportunity for anything – including jamming with Jimmy Fallon.”