Lowell Whiteman Primary School students, from left, Madison Knutson, Miles Borden and Camden Wilkinson attend music class Wednesday morning.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Lowell Whiteman Primary School students, from left, Madison Knutson, Miles Borden and Camden Wilkinson attend music class Wednesday morning.

Whiteman Primary receives a violin from November visitor



Guy DeFazio/Courtesy

Nancy Spillane, director of Lowell Whiteman Primary School, gives a tour of the school to Haskell Solomon, who visited Steamboat in November from Los Angeles. Solomon recently donated a violin to the school's strings program.

If you go

What: Lowell Whiteman Primary School’s “Strings Showcase,” a musical performance by students in grades kindergarten through 8

When: 5 p.m. Wednesday

Where: St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

Cost: Free and open to the public

More: Strings teacher Mary Anne Fairlie said the performance would include “everything from Bach to rock.” It also will premier a jazz piece called “Rocking the Boat,” written by Fairlie’s husband, John, a local composer. A dinner reception is scheduled to follow the Strings Showcase.

— After discovering the strings music program at Lowell Whiteman Primary School, Steamboat Springs resident Guy DeFazio wanted to introduce it to a friend.

In November, DeFazio took Haskell Solomon to see the school and meet with its students. Solomon, an 85-year-old musician from Los Angeles, said he was so moved by the kindness of the people he met and so impressed with the students’ musical ability that he wanted to make a donation.

A few weeks ago, Whiteman Primary Head of School Nancy Spillane said a package arrived at the school. Inside was a more than 200-year-old German violin.

“When I saw those children’s faces and them playing, something inside me said, ‘That’s beautiful, that’s beautiful,’” Solomon said. “The feelings I felt, I wanted to give the instrument to them.

“I was so touched. There was something about them, in a small little town.”

DeFazio, who moved to Ste­amboat in November 2008, saw an ad for that winter’s holiday strings concert at Whiteman Primary. DeFazio said he was immediately “sold on the quality of the music program” at the school.

When Solomon decided to visit, DeFazio arranged a visit to the school. Solomon, who has played violin since he was an 8-year-old growing up in Burma, toured the school before meeting some of the strings students while they were practicing.

“He walks in and (the students) don’t know who he is,” DeFazio said about Solomon. “They see this nice friendly old guy, and he sits down. They put this music in front of him. He looks at it for 30 seconds and says OK. It was funny to me.”

Solomon played with the students for a short time. He was especially taken with a young cellist, fourth-grader Shae Burger, whom he called a “doll.”

Whiteman Primary strings teacher Mary Anne Fairlie said it’s rare for people other than parents to appreciate a school’s music program.

“It’s exciting when anyone can value a quality program,” she said. “When a professional musician seeks us out, it’s exciting for the kids to have that association. … For them to see someone appreciate it outside of family and school is so much more meaningful.”

Solomon emigrated to San Francisco in 1960. Before that, he lived in Israel and England.

He bought the violin about 20 years ago. Solomon said the violin, which is inscribed with the year 1798 inside, was made by a great violinmaker in Germany. He wouldn’t say what it is worth.

It was one of three violins that Solomon owned, and because he said he couldn’t play all of them at the same time, he donated one to the school in honor of his mother, whose loving support encouraged him to play the instrument.

“I have no reason to feel like I did a big thing,” he said.

But he did. Spillane said the school was grateful for Solomon’s gift. Fairlie is using the violin to teach. All students at Whiteman Primary are required to play cello, bass, viola or violin during their time at the school.

Spillane added that White­man Primary was honored to have befriended Solomon.

“It’s one thing for us to be proud of our kids,” she said. “It’s another thing for someone outside the school to feel that way.”


Guy 6 years, 11 months ago

Hi Jack,

Thanks for bringing attention to Haskell's amazing gift to the school. When he told me that he wanted to make the donation "in memory of his mother," this whole experience became even more heartwarming for me.

Also, please allow me to make a small correction to your quote regarding "the students putting music in front of him." That was actually not during his visit with the children, but rather when he was invited to play with Mary Anne and the Steamboat Springs Quartet, at one of their rehearsals, later that afternoon. If memory serves me, it was a piece by Vivaldi.

During those few days that he was here, the list of people who showed him their kindness was wonderful, from Nancy and Mary Anne to Teresa Steffen Greenlee, John Sant'Ambrogio, Bonnie Murray, and former Lowell Whiteman student Willy Gunn and his mother.

Haskell also brought some very special music with him, to play with the quartet, as well as with Willy. For the quartet, he brought Gershwin's "Lullaby" and a very interesting piece by a Chinese composer whose name escapes me at the moment. For playing with Willy, he brought Mozart's "Table Music for Two." The two of them performing together was very special.

Yours, Guy


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