The Musicians Play On…Sayumi Harb

Meet Sayumi Harb, one of our first violinists.

I play in the first violin section.  My instrument is a 2010 desk copy of a 1741 Guarneri del Gesu.  It was made by the Italian American luthier Andrius Faruolo and his brother, Alarik Faruolo. I started playing when I was 8 in the strings program at my public school in Huntsville, Alabama. I started playing in the CVSO in September of 2017.

I’ve spent much of this time at home finishing up my term as the Principal of the Japanese Language School of Greater Hartford, and now preparing to enter graduate school in violin performance at the Hartt School of Music.  I am also home-schooling two kids and learning how to garden and preserve food.  This year, in addition to the usual herbs such as basil, thyme, sage, chives, Korean perilla and shiso, I am also growing borage, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, sunflowers, red amaranth spinach, molokhia, kale, collards and cabbage.  Lots of nutritious veggies to keep everyone healthy!  Finally, I have been learning how to play classical Arabic music on the violin and on the oud to diversify my musical skills (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KA5VdzRHh-U).  It is a challenge at this age to learn all the microtonal modes, rhythmic patterns and how they fit together, not to mention learning how to improvise!  But it is well worth the effort.  

I’ve been enjoying listening to “Talkin’ Bout a Revolution” by Tracy Chapman (actually the whole eponymous album from 1988 seems oddly prescient and relevant for today).  Sarband Ensemble’s collaboration with singer Fadia el Hage, especially their interpretation of “Erbarme dich, mein Gott” from Bach’s St. Mathias Passion was a revelation (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SUj3LEiMEKE).  Also on my playlist: “Mumtastic” (Album) by Tareq Abboushi and Shusmo, Lhasa de Sela’s “La Llorona,” Johanna Martzy’s recordings of the Brahms Violin Concerto, and everything Vijay Iyer has released so far.  I recently learned that Vijay Iyer studied violin while at Yale with my current teacher, Dr. Stephan Tieszen.  Iyer recently composed a violin piece, Bridgetower Fantasy, inspired by the Afro-European virtuoso who debuted Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata (Beethoven had dedicated the piece initially to Bridgetower, but then a rift developed in their friendship…so perhaps the Sonata should be called the “Bridgetower” Sonata, since Rodolphe Kreutzer never even played it!).

My favorite piece during COVID 19 to lift my spirits is: Paganini Caprice No. 24.  

During this COVID 19 period I have been practicing/playing Partita No. 2 in D minor by Johann Sebastian Bach on a baroque bow, classical Arabic violin versions of songs such as “Saalouni Nas” by Ziad Rahbani, Paganini Caprices, Sarasate’s Ziguenerweisen, and Prokofiev Concerto No. 2.  I also attended violinist Katie Lansdale’s Bach Promisek workshops via Zoom, and learned how to do Baroque dance moves such as balancé and pas de bourrée – very useful when interpreting baroque music!  

Two techniques I’ve been working on: tenths and left-hand pizzicato.  When I went back to playing violin after a hiatus of 15 years or so, I had to re-engineer my whole left-hand technique so as to avoid hand-pain and injury – this took over 2 years!  The positive upside is that now I can play repertoire and techniques that I could never quite master before.  

I have included a recent photo and video from a socially distanced Father’s Day/ World Make Music Day/ Summer Solstice concert we held.  We live at a traffic light intersection that can get busy/stressful even during COVID times, so we wanted to play short pieces for our neighbors and for folks driving by.  We hope to repeat this kind of driveway/traffic light concert in the future, perhaps during weekday rush hour when the weather is a bit cooler.