Picking up the violin
The Good Life|April 2020
‘The violin is my job, it’s my hobby, it’s the way I volunteer...’
Susan lagsdin

Michelle Vaughn was 11, giddy about the orchestra recruitment assembly at her elementary school, where she’d heard junior high students ably playing the Pink Panther theme song.

She wanted in. No problem. When her mom came to her room one day with, “I’m going to the store to buy your instrument. A cello’s too big. Do you want a viola or a violin?” the choice was easy. Since the fearless fifth grader hadn’t heard of the former, she chose the latter.

Now the girl-grown-up, Michelle is frank about the instrument’s role in her life. “The violin is my job, it’s my hobby, it’s the way I volunteer, the way I challenge myself.”

With a hard-won master’s degree in performance and pedagogy from Central Washington University, she plays first violin for the Wenatchee Valley Symphony for its four or five concerts a year. That means an infrequent but intense rehearsal calendar, maybe 15 weeks a year of late nights, many more hours at home preparing and practicing.

She also serves as the symphony’s concertmaster, so she must be familiar with every part, every note of the score and then every nuance conductor Nick Caoile brings to the piece.

During the week, she teaches violin in four of Wenatchee School District’s elementary schools.

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