Back home, back to Bruch

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Larissa Freier remembers being dragged “kicking and screaming” to her violin lessons.

“I didn’t love it at first,” the Port Townsend native said, laughing.

Freier was 4 years old when she first began playing the instrument that, 19 years later, is now her constant companion.

Despite the rocky start, she stuck with the violin, not only through elementary, middle and high schools, but into college at the University of Puget Sound.

And she is so happy she did.

Freier now lives and teaches violin in Tacoma, and is returning to her hometown for a performance of Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 with the Port Townsend Community Orchestra on April 29.

INTO COLLEGE

Freier, 23, was introduced to violin through Harmony Preschool in Port Townsend, where learning to play the instrument was part of the curriculum; that education continued later at Swan School. She also studied with local teachers Kristin Smith, Pat Yearian, Barbara Henry and Marcy Stewart.

It was in middle school that she first discovered she enjoyed playing her instrument.

“I think it really started when I began playing with other people in groups,” she said.

It was that realization of, “Oh, other people are all on the same page,” she said. “That was really fun; I started making friends in the orchestra.”

While attending Port Townsend High School, she began to travel with a group of kids weekly to Tacoma to play in the Tacoma Youth Symphony, and she started to become even more serious about her instrument.

In her junior year of high school, she began studying with Maria Sampen, a professor at UPS.

“I loved her; she was so inspiring,” Freier said.

It was Sampen who suggested Freier continue a career in music and attend college at UPS.

“I was like, you know, I’ve dedicated so much time, so much energy to doing this music thing – I want to see where it goes,” she said.

Fast-forward a few years. After numerous hours spent in the practice room, multiple performances in symphony concerts and with a chamber music group, and summers spent at music festivals around the country, Freier is now teaching violin and viola to 20 students ranging in age from 6 to 70 at a music store in Gig Harbor. And she is thinking about attending grad school in Germany, where she has family and citizenship.

MEMORIES

Speaking about her upcoming concert, Freier said it was her idea to perform Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1, which she will play in full Sunday.

“(Music director Tigran Arakelyan) asked me what I would like to play,” she said.

Freier thought back to pieces she had played in the past.

“The Bruch was the very first thing I played when I started studying with Maria Sampen ... in high school,” she said. “Back then, I didn’t really do it justice; I was 16 years old.”

She decided she would love a “do-over.”

“To go back, relearn this piece and actually perform it much better, to the best of my abilities,” Freier said.

So, seven years later, she has pulled that concerto out again, and is excited to share it with the Port Townsend Community Orchestra audience.

“It gives the audience and the players a little bit of everything,” she said. “It has so many contrasting sections – the third movement is wild and fast, the middle movement is so beautiful; it’s one of my favorite parts of the piece,” she said. “The first movement is exciting as well. It brings back so many memories.”

Speaking of memories, the orchestra is full of faces familiar to her from so many years ago: her first teachers.

“It’s fun to be there,” she said. “They’ve all known me since I was 4 years old.”

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