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Three generations join to make beautiful music

Eileen JoyceNancy Hill (left) and Zach Zyskowski work on a violin piece in Grass Valley Monday.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

Zach Zyskowski’s voice is strong and assured. Over the phone, his voice belies the fact he’s only 15.

To say he’s mature beyond his years is definitely an understatement. While many of his peers are primarily concerned with successfully fulfilling demands associated with high school, Zyskowski fits a demanding violin study program into his daily routine.

Besides maintaining a 4.0 grade point average, there is Zyskowski’s violin practice time, which often lasts a few hours each day.



For the past year, the Nevada Union High School junior has taken weekly lessons from Dr. Zaven Melikian in Fairfield. Zyskowski calls Melikian one of the best teachers in California and says the travel time is worth it. Melikian is the former head of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music’s string department.

While Zyskowski admits it’s hard balancing schoolwork and violin practice, that’s precisely what he has done for the last eight years, thanks to a heavy dose of determination and equal amounts of energy.




“My music is my main passion, that’s my life,” Zyskowski said.

His desire to play the violin started perchance nine years ago when his parents turned on a classical radio station during a car ride. Zyskowski became hooked on classical at that moment, (“I’m an odd puritan,” he laughs) and decided to play violin.

Now, less than a decade later, Zyskowski’s hard work is paying off.

Zyskowski performs monthly with the Sacramento Youth Symphony Premiere Orchestra and with various chamber groups.

He has won several Music in the Mountains Young Musicians’ Competitions starting in grade school, and within the past year performed in MIM’s Spring and Fall Fest concerts. Zyskowski will join MIM’s Festival Orchestra month-long string of Summer Fest concerts for his first time next June.

Perhaps since he has treated music so reverently for more than half his life, Zyskowski is not nervous about Friday’s concert in Nevada City when he will perform Violin Duos with former teacher Nancy Hill.

“It doesn’t matter that he’s only 15. We’ve been working together as two professionals for Friday’s program,” Hill said. “It hasn’t been a feeling of teacher-student; we’ve worked together as colleagues.”

Up until last year, Hill was Zyskowski’s teacher for four years before suggesting he move to a more advanced teacher.

The two musicians don’t view Friday’s concert as something out of the ordinary because of their former relationship or different ages.

“Working with someone as young as Zack, we work together as professionals,” Hill reiterated. “The music doesn’t have age barriers.”

Violin Duos composer W. Jay Sydeman, however, does think the performers’ demographics in relation to Friday’s concert are extraordinary.

“It’s exciting working with three generations. I’m particularly interested in working with youth,” said Sydeman, who both founded and conducted the Auburn Youth Symphony in the early ’90s. Zyskowski was a member of that symphony.

“Nancy has a wealth of experience in new music, she brings that to the concert and she coached Zach, who has all this passion and flair. It’s a great combination,” Sydeman noted proudly.

KNOW & GO

WHAT: Nevada County Composers Cooperative “Meet The Composers Series” with violinists Nancy Hill and Zach Zyskowski. Composer is W. Jay Sydeman.

WHEN: Friday at 7 p.m.

WHERE: Nevada City Winery, 321 Spring St., Nevada City

ADMISSION: $10,

which includes wine and

hors d’oeuvres

INFORMATION: 478-0983


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