Junior Principle Player Exudes Passion for Violin

Emma Dahl

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Photo by Rachael Barton

Junior Ryan Jacobsen, the concertmaster of the Whitman College Orchestra, has been playing violin since he was five. Music and violin performance are his passions, and there is nothing else he’d rather pursue.

Jacobsen said in an email interview that as soon as he could talk, he started asking his parents about playing the violin. Although he has some experience with piano and voice, the violin has always been his primary instrument.

Leaving high school, Jacobsen was interested in both medicine and music. He chose Whitman because it would give him the flexibility to pursue both. Yet by his sophomore year, he found that he didn’t have enough time to devote his full attention to either subject.

“After a little contemplation, I realized that I couldn’t ever give up my music, despite my enthusiasm for the medical field,” said Jacobsen.

Jacobsen explained that his current major is music performance with emphasis on violin performance. He is also interested in both historical and theoretical approaches to classical music, and he intends to pursue both throughout graduate school.

Jacobsen plays in a variety of ensembles both at Whitman and in the Walla Walla area. Many students perform in more than one ensemble here at Whitman, but there are few who have broken through the infamous Whitman Bubble by playing with the Walla Walla Symphony.

Photo by Rachael Barton

“The Whitman Orchestra is a little smaller and has the benefit of being a very tight ensemble,” he said. “We know each other well and can consequently create a nicely blended sound. The Walla Walla Symphony is a much larger ensemble, which allows us to play many of the great large-scale symphonic works. The atmosphere [at the Walla Walla Symphony] is quite professional, and I appreciate the opportunity to play with the best musicians in Walla Walla and beyond.”

Besides being in the two large ensembles, Jacobsen also plays with a small chamber group of four to five students and sometimes solos at various events around Walla Walla wineries, parties and other events.

A common occurrence when a musician plays their instrument is that the emotion of the music that they’re playing will manifest itself in physical emulation. The musician in question will sway with the beat, lean forward and back with crescendos and decrescendos and physically emote through solos. It’s a natural phenomenon, one that you don’t really realize is happening. Jacobsen is no stranger to this.

“I often physically emote when I play violin, especially when I am soloing. I don’t necessarily believe that this improves my sound or technique, but it certainly helps me feel the music, which is paramount in creating a cohesively phrased performance,” said Jacobsen. “I also believe that a little physical emoting can help the audience understand what is going in a piece of music. After all, live music includes both aural and visual components.”