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Rachel Barton Pine Shows Us That Violins Totally Rock

By Rachelle Bowden in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 30, 2004 3:46PM

Rachel Barton - Photo: rachelbarton.comRachel Barton Pine is a violinist on a mission spread classical music. And she's doing it by going on rock stations and playing heavy metal songs on her Guarneri violin.

Rachel grew up in a poor household in Irving Park/North Center. She first played the violin at age 3 and obsessed with it soon after, she began taking lessons with a rented violin. At 10 Rachel made her solo debut with the Chicago Symphony and at 14 was playing weddings. Because her father had job troubles, she became the family's breadwinner.

"I put on a lot of makeup and pretended I was older than I was," she said. "I was responsible for the mortgage, the utilities, the groceries, and there was so much pressure, growing up like that. ... When I was 17 or 18, even if I had gotten a full scholarship, I certainly wouldn't have been able to be in school and continue to work enough to ... support the family."

Rachel Barton - Photo: rachelbarton.comAt 17, Rachel became the youngest person, and the first American, to win the J.S. Bach Internation Competition in Germany. Then tragedy struck. When Rachel was 22, she was run over by a Metra train when the strap of her violin case got caught in a door and she was dragged to the tracks. She lost her left leg above the knee and suffered severe damage to her right.

During her rehab, Rachel played her own arrangement of The Star Spangled Banner at two Bulls playoff games and at the DNC in Chicago in 1996. People were inspired and were saying they didn't know that violins were so cool. So Rachel got the idea that maybe it wasn't that most people don't like violin music, but that they haven't been properly exposed to it.

So here we are.. in the rock radio station.. Rachel brings her violin and plays everything from Metallica to Mozart. She says she loves heavy metal so it's natural for her to go on rock radio and talk about heavy metal bands. If you look on her website you'll see her photographed with the likes of Slash, Dave Mustaine, and Black Sabbath's Tony Iommi. She says that her love of heavy metal helps break down barriers and shows that even classical musicians may like music that we all like. She may have a point. Chicagoist is totally digging her renditions of Fade to Black and Sunday Bloody Sunday (click links to listen).