Finding a fine fiddle for Emilie |

Finding a fine fiddle for Emilie

Emilie Roberts Brockway doesn’t fiddle around. She fiddles seriously.

The Twin Cities Concert Association (TCCA) thinks so highly of the Nevada City 12-year-old’s musical ability that they recently gave her a $500 Autumn Youth Scholarship.

“I will buy a new violin that I will keep and cherish forever,” Emilie said in her acceptance speech.

Some winners would have put the money in a college fund, but Emilie put the check in her “violin fund.”

Mentors, teachers and peers have told her she is capable of playing better music than her school-rented instrument can render. She needs a performance-quality violin so she can win a scholarship for


“We are so grateful to the concert association,” said Emilie’s mother Pamela Roberts Brockway. “This scholarship was a big help.”

A long time coming

Gathering the $1,000 to $1,500 necessary to buy a serious violin has been a long-term project.

“There’s been a whole community of people that’s helped her,” said her mother, including, “Grandma and Grandpa and Mom and Dad.”

Emilie herself is a resolute contributor to the fund. She socks away the tips she earns from playing in public, ranging from the Empire Mine State Park to the Bridgeport Fall Festival to both the Cornish and Victorian Christmas celebrations in Grass Valley and Nevada City – all in period costume.

With the $500 boost from TCCA, Emilie has been shopping for the perfect fiddle from here to the Bay Area.

“I’d probably like an older one,” Emilie said after classes let out at the Nevada City School for the Arts, where she is a seventh-grader. Many fine stringed instruments improve in tone and quality with age, she said knowledgeably.

Loving to learn

Some children have to be pushed to practice. Not Emilie.

“I don’t have a set schedule,” Emilie said off-handedly. “Sometimes I just play for hours, and sometimes I play for just a few minutes.”

“She’s always wanted to play,” her mom said.

Emilie was first inspired more than four years ago by Katherine Buckley of the Celtic group Emerald Mist, who was performing at the Empire Mine.

“We would have never discovered this talent if we hadn’t come here,” said Pamela Brockway, referring to the school where she also is the receptionist.

Teachers, mentors and heroes

While she doesn’t care whether you call it a fiddle or a violin, Emilie is dedicated to the Scottish style of playing.

She has attended the Sierra Fiddle Camp run by renowned Scottish fiddler Alasdair Fraser near Nevada City.

“He’s a really good inspiration and a good friend – and he’s amazing,” Emilie said.

Adding to the Celtic inspiration is Ethan Lewis, her teacher at NCSA for three years.

Lewis, 26, is a protege of Fraser. He is known locally for his own fiddle work on several CDs with Root Down

One and, most recently, with 1,000 Years at Sea on their new CD, “Silver Shores Await.”

Also inspiring Emilie is her friend Galen Fraser, Alasdair Fraser’s son, who is in his first year at the Berklee College of Music in Boston – a school she aspires to attend some day.

White Roses and the String Sisters

Emilie is perfectly comfortable performing as a soloist or with a group. In fact, she plays with several, including the String Sisters (with cellist Lexi Tyrell, 12, of Grass Valley) and White Roses (with harpist Delphine Griffith, 12, and fiddler Junie Bedayn, 9, both of Grass Valley).

Both groups will be performing at various local venues during the holidays.

Pamela Brockway said her daughter has a “symbiotic” relationship with her audience. The more they dance to the music, the better she plays.

Brockway once asked Emilie why she was so driven to play.

Emilie’s answer: “Mom, people really like the music.”

Tom Durkin is a freelance writer based in Nevada City. For comments on this article, e-mail or call (530) 477-4230.

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