Musical sparks to fly as electric violinist plays with Columbus Symphony Orchestra

Tracy Silverman has been in Columbus before accompanying pianist Jim Brickman.

This time, he’s the guest artist of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra.

Silverman, an electric violinist, is a classically trained musician, having gone to the famed Juilliard School in New York City.

He’ll be playing “Dharma at Big Sur,” written for him by contemporary composer John Adams.

He played classical music up until he had graduated and started playing electric violin.

He made his first electric violin so it sounded like a violin, but also like a guitar.

“I was a huge Jimi Hendrix and Carlos Santana fan and guys like that,” Silverman said. “So I built this special violin.”

He played with rock bands in New York until he got a call from the Turtle Island Jazz Quartet.

“I toured the world with those guys for a number of years on the acoustic violin,” he said. “But I really missed playing electric violin. I hated to leave it behind.”

So he left the group and went back to playing with rock bands.

But playing with the Turtle Island Jazz Quartet exposed him to world music, which he loves. He’s especially fond of Brazilian and Indian music.

It was playing the Brazilian and Indian music that Adams found him. The Los Angeles Philharmonic had commissioned Adams to write a new piece, which became “Dharma at Big Sur.”

The piece premiered in 2003 and Silverman has played it all over the world, “from Belgium to Australia.”

Silverman loves the Adams piece.

“Although it’s contemporary music, I think it is accessible for most of the audience. The first section is loose and slow and the second part is much more rhythmic like a tidal wave rushing over you. It’s a real crowd-pleaser.”

Now 50, Silverman has four children, ages 3 to 18.

After living in the San Francisco Bay area, Silverman went to Nashville for a concert and loved the area.

“It’s much more affordable place for a musician to raise a family,” he said. “It’s very centrally located. It’s much easier to come and go than the West Coast.”

He now teaches at Belmont University in Nashville.

Saying he keeps busy is an understatement. Besides his teaching schedule, he’s a busy composer. He also tours and records.

His wife, Stephanie, was a violinist and an actor. She is now the managing director of the Belcourt Theatre in Nashville.

Their children are all musical, he said. But they are pursuing other things as well.

“Being in the music business, I’m not encouraging them to go there,” he said. “I kind of feel I got lucky. If they want to be musicians and that’s the only thing they want to do ”

Silverman said he’d help them if that’s the case. In the meantime, two of them play instruments, one dances and “the little guy pretends to play.”

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