Audience will do double take at holiday concerts
There is the performer, then there is the educator, and Portland rock violinist Aaron Meyer takes both roles seriously.
The son of a music teacher, Meyer took up giving lessons himself as a teenager. And each year he helps young people make the transition from practice room to stage. Two of his most recent violin pupils are 11-year-old twins Sarah and Sophia Fisher, who'll join him on stage in the 17th annual Holiday Concert Series at First Congregational Church next week.
"These two young girls are natural performers. They like the limelight and the stage," Meyer says. "They're naturals, and they don't need to be coached on what to do.
"They're getting an unusual opportunity. How many 11-year-olds get to play in a concert series in front of 600 people? They're extremely talented and motivated," he says.
The Fisher sisters will join Meyer and his father, Julian Meyer, for five pieces in the holiday concerts, including the "Concerto for Four Violins in B Minor" by Vivaldi. It was a piece that Meyer and his late friend Tim Ellis arranged for four violins and a rock orchestra in 2008. Meyer's nine-piece band backs them.
Having been Meyer students for some time, and performing in last year's Holiday Concert Series, the Lake Oswego sisters are anxiously looking forward to getting back on stage. Nerves? Oh yeah, but they overcome them.
"Especially with Aaron's dad coming. He's a very talented violinist, very classical, and I'm kind of nervous, to be honest," Sarah says. "We took lessons from him. He's no joke. I'm a bit nervous, but really excited that we're playing with him."
They each have the other on stage to lean on.
"Since we're twins, it's good to have a little buddy built in. Sometimes it's nerve-racking going on stage by yourself," Sophia adds. "You can always have a person along with you.
"I haven't always felt comfortable, but over time, the more you perform on stage, you get more used to it, you can get more comfrotable and have better stage presence."
Meyer credits the girls' mother, Brittany, for being such a strong supporter. She and her husband want their girls to learn many different styles of violin — classical, rock, fiddle — because it's good to be diverse. The Fisher sisters are part of the Portland Youth Philharmonic company, currently in the Young String Ensemble and working their way up.
"The classical approach is super important for them, in order for them to understand music theory and technical aspects of violin," Brittany says. "But having a range of music, whether it's rock or some fiddle or country or worship music, with all different genres to participate in, it's more fun. They also like to arrange pieces."
The girls have been influenced by Meyer, whose reputation as a rock violinist and performer precedes him.
"He's very fun and motivating," Sarah says. "We don't just stay and practice, practice, practice. Once we get something down, we get to perform them."
Says mom Brittany: "Aaron's shows are real energetic, he does a nice mix of rock music with classical violin, and the girls are able to perform with his nine-piece band. It's a cool experience; amazing opportunity for the girls."
The sisters are students at Westridge Elementary in Lake Oswego, and admittedly competitive with each other.
"I try to be better than her," Sophia says. "I help her out, but I'm also in competition. 'Hey, this is how you do it, but I do it better.'"
Sarah says: "We both have our strength. She's good at learning music quickly, but I'm better on the technical side and theory."
Meyer says that teaching young people is about patience and three other things:
"No. 1, you need to have a kid who's talented and wanting to do it, who has aptitude and interest; No. 2, they're going to do work and practice; No. 3, most importantly, you need a parent who is committed and involved."
Whereas Meyer's father was more intense, Meyer calls himself "laid-back" in teaching. "He would push kids, and sometimes it wasn't pretty," Meyer says.
For the holiday concerts, the Fishers also will participate in the playing of the late Ellis' song "Down Patrick," an Irish tune, as well as a version of "Do You Hear What I Hear?," which includes a segment of "Teenage Wasteland (Baba O'Riley)" by The Who.
Meyer sees commitment from the Fishers. They have their own website, fisherviolin.com.
"I see them interested in making it a career. Right now, they're embracing it," he says. "They have opportunities to perform, that's the key, too.
"If you like the limelight, the stage is sort of your high and fantasy. You get on stage, the lights come on and people clap, it's sort of addictive."
There'll be four performances in the Aaron Meyer Holiday Concert Series, 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 14, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 15, and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 16, at First Congregational Church, 1126 S.W. Park Ave. Tickets are $30 (general admission) and $40 (reserved) and available at www.AaronMeyer.com. The Brown Sisters also are featured performers. Meyer's friend, North Dakota resident Beverly Everett, will be performing on the organ in the concerts.