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Lara St. John - Violinist



Lara St. John is Bowfire

An interview article by Rosemary Phillips, September 2006

INTRO: Interviewing Lara St. John was an absolute delight. She is such a personable, sensitive, caring and warm person. I got to attend "Bowfire", the Vancouver Island Symphony concert this article was written for and can say without a doubt that her performance is incredible and so full of passion. She stood on the stage in a stunning red dress, all eyes upon her as she commanded full attention from the audience not only in her appearance but in her breathtaking playing. At the after-performance reception she mingled, shared stories and let us meet the artist behind the performance - human, aware, fun-loving, with a humanitarian consciousness.


Passion and fire – traits common to both Canadian violinist Lara St. John and composer Ludwig van Beethoven. Just as Beethoven was a modern phenomenon on the world stage of music in his day, so too is Lara, an exceptionally gifted musician with a provocative image, following her heart and interests while globe hopping on a life journey that would have many people reeling.

Lara St. John - Violinist

Lara St. John

“I started playing when I was two years old,” explained Lara from her home in New York during an interview between flights here and there. “Obviously the violin was much smaller and probably squeaky. My brother is two years older than me and when Mother got him to take violin lessons he came home with this little violin. I didn’t want him to have something I didn’t have - I was jealous. So I got a violin. It was something not normally seen - a two-year-old playing. It went like wildfire and it just kept on going.”

By age four Lara had performed her first solo concerto with an orchestra and by ten made her European debut. “It was when I was about 12 that I suddenly wanted to practice for myself and not because people told me to. It’s a hard concept when you are a kid, because at six you want to go out and play but instead you have to practice your scales. When I was ten or eleven I would say, ‘I quit.’ My folks would say, ‘Fine.’ Then I’d be in a store and hear Bach (her favourite composer) and realize I could never quit.”

At age 13 Lara entered the Curtis Institute and by 16 she was in Moscow, studying at the conservatory. “It’s been a wacky life. I’m a high school dropout. Actually, I don’t have an elementary school diploma but I got a college diploma when I was 16. In a way it’s like all the travelling and life experience has been my education. My family was always really supportive. They said, ‘You want to go, go ahead!’ But everyone thought I was bonkers to go to the USSR. I was alone for a year in a foreign country. It was the best year of my life.”

Lara paused for a moment and reflected; “It’s funny how you make lifelong friends at that age and always stay in touch with them. Even people I didn’t know all that well, when we meet again we really enjoy getting together. We had an experience in common, of a time and place that nobody else can relate to.”

Lara St. John - Violinist

Lara in Australia

Now Lara travels the world playing with all the great symphony orchestras. On Saturday, October 21 she was stopping off in Nanaimo at The Port Theatre for “Bowfire” to play Beethoven’s Violin Concerto (a piece that is certainly full of passion and fire) with the Vancouver Island Symphony, under the baton of Marlin Wolfe. “I think this is probably the greatest, definitely the most beautiful violin concerto we have,” explained Lara. “He was obviously in a good mood when he wrote it. Some parts of it, especially the second movement, are heart-wrenchingly beautiful. I love it.”

Beethoven broke new ground with his music and approach to his role as composer. He was the first real freelancer to create music for everyone - not just the few. Likewise Lara has created waves, not only with her amazing playing but also with her approach to marketing classical music to the younger generations and to new audiences. “I have done innovative record covers,” she explained. One such cover for her 1996 debut album Bach: Works for Violin Solo has Lara appearing naked except for a carefully placed violin. The CD, in addition to receiving resounding acclaim, reached sales of over 35,000. She has certainly turned the classical world on its heels.

For more information, formal biography, news, videos and such visit Lara St. John's web site.

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Copyright Rosemary Phillips, Quills Quotes & Notes Enterprises, 2013
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