26 Jan The Violin-Gram: A Brief History
“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
A year ago I almost died in a car crash, which was the catalyst for me deciding to pursue all of my dreams in life – I decided that I wanted to devote my life to inspiring others to follow their heart and blaze their own trail. I wrote a crazy mission statement that said that I wanted to, “inspire millions of people.” I planted this seed into the universe, with not a shred of a clue how to water it – I only knew and trusted that I would find the way. Slowly, but surely, I started seeing little clues and feeling impulses that were guiding me in the direction I wanted to go – I started playing my violin in the mountains… I started writing poetry… I started doing live Facebook videos (even though it completely terrified me) sharing my story. Each day, each moment, building confidence in myself and my mission – each day, each moment bringing a renewed sense of clarity and focus.
A few months ago, I was hiking down from the summit of Granite Mountain. I was carrying my violin after a successful Musical Mountaineers concert when I was suddenly struck by an idea: What if I could use the powerful combination of music, social media and kindness to bring more joy into the world. I didn’t know how to do this, but I envisioned a way that other people could send a “musical message” to somebody else – for any occasion, or simply, “just because.” Music is one of the most powerful forces on this planet – capable of speaking on a deeply emotional level to every person, no matter what language you understand. In that moment, I knew that I was being called to share my music for good. The concept of a, “musical telegram” popped into my head… quickly followed by the idea of a, “violin-gram”. My heart skipped a beat – this felt right. I was partially petrified, mostly due to illogical fears – “What if nobody requests one? What if people think this is a dumb idea? What if I suck at doing violin-grams?” But the idea wouldn’t go away. Instead of officially announcing it, I slipped the first ever, “violin-gram” request form into the shop section of my blog.
For a few weeks, I didn’t hear anything, until one day, to my great delight and surprise, I received my first request:
And yes, you are reading that correctly… somehow I had accidentally cut and pasted a lingerie website link into what I thought was supposed to be a hyperlink for my Musical Mountaineering (side note: True and Co – any interest in becoming the official lingerie line of the Musical Mountaineers?) Feeling quite embarrassed, yet elated, I quickly composed a response:
I wasn’t sure how I was going to make this violin-gram happen. I had a rehearsal for a Christmas concert in Federal Way on the very same day, and trying to coordinate the timing to arrive in Seattle during rush-hour was going to be nothing short of a miracle. After some careful planning and consideration, I decided that I simply could not say “no” to my very first request for a violin-gram. When you put something out into the world, and then refuse to do it on your first chance, it just felt wrong. I decided to park my vehicle south of Seattle and ride the light rail train into the downtown area in order avoid a traffic fiasco.
And so, on a blustery Thursday, armed with my violin, I hopped on the commuter train and arrived in Seattle to deliver my very first, in-person violin gram. What followed was a beautiful evening with beautiful people, that I would have never otherwise met. Vineeth and his wife are beautiful, genuine and kind. In a beautiful home, overlooking the Seattle waterfront, I played my violin as the sun started to set over the Puget Sound. I laughed and delighted in the opportunity to meet new friends. It felt good to be with these people who saw me for exactly who I was.
Since I “invented” the violin-gram, I have done 40 of them. In no particular order, they can be summarized in the following list:
1. An in person birthday-gram in Seattle
2. A motivational gram from a mother to a daughter, Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb”
3. A birthday violin-gram from me to my friend Alexa
4. “Lullabye, Goodnight my Angel” from me to my friend Brenda
5. A violin-gram to send love into the world for a clearly distraught man driving a Silver Honda
6. A violin-gram for my mom
7. A violin gram for a friend who has a son with very challenging medical issues
8. A violin gram for my friend Amanda and her lost dog, Rusco
9. A violin gram for my friend Arnold and his wife Carol who was having a surgery and medical issues
10. A secret santa violin gram for a young boy who dreamed of being able to purchase a violin
11. An in-person violin gram at a school for 200 students to deliver the secret santa violin!
12. A violin gram from a mother to a daughter, in memory of their dog Bella
13. A Christmas violin-gram for my friend Eric
14. A 20th anniversary violin gram Kelly and Jason
15. Birthday gram for a girl who lost her father in a car accident
16. “Danny Boy” for parents on the anniversary of their son’s death
17. “Amazing Grace” For first responders and victims in the Amtrak train derailment
18. A Violin gram for two sisters who lead women’s hikes and inspire women in the community
19. A Violin gram for a husband and wife in Scotland from their niece
20. “What child is this” – for a friend who was feeling sad after breaking her leg
21. A violin gram for a young child with neuroblastoma
22. Violin gram for a young man learning to play the violin
23. Violin gram for a young woman who plays the violin
24. Violin gram from a woman who wanted to send good intentions to her friends for 2018
25. Violin gram for a friend who plays the bass guitar
26. Birthday violin gram for my friend Diana
27. Birthday violin gram for my friend Phoenix
28. Violin gram for a family who lost their daughter
29. Violin gram for Gale thanking her family for always supporting her and being there for her
30. Violin gram from Phoenix to her sister Erica, for being her rock and support
31. Violin gram to Gretchen and Nathan – 20th anniversary gram
32. Birthday violin gram from a daughter to her father
33. Birthday violin gram from a daughter to her mother
34. Happy Retirement gram from Kelly to her parents after 45 years of service
35. Violin gram in memory of her brother, from his sister Sasha
36. Birthday gram – Happy 12 years old Caleb from his mom
37. A violin gram in memory of a friend
38. Violin gram to a 7 year old family member who was re-diagnosed with cancer for the 2nd time and facing another surgery
39. A violin-gram for my best friend and climbing partner, Brenda Gordon
40. A violin-gram in memory of her father Lenny who passed away suddenly, for my friend Eva
When I look at this list, it is a bit overwhelming – not because of the amount of work or time involved, but because every single violin-gram on this list is about people. This isn’t just a list to me – these are lives and stories. This list is about connection, positivity and sharing love. Not including the in-person violin grams, I totaled the number of views that these violin-grams have received during their life in cyber-space. Since I posted the very first violin-gram two months ago, these little videos have had 22,262 views. Twenty-two thousand, two hundred and sixty two. What does that mean? It means that in some small way, 22,262 people were focused on something positive and beautiful, for at least a fraction of their day. It means that people were looking for ways to reach out and share more love with somebody that they care about.
In the past two months since I started this project, I have received messages from family members who have received peace during incredibly difficult times in their life. I have been reaffirmed over and over again that sharing more love and more light is simply the only way to change the world. When you focus on, “what is wrong” or, “what isn’t working”, you only attract more of the same into your life. But, if you shift your focus to what is good now, in this very moment, you can learn to re-discover the infinite beauty and love that is available to all of us, at all times.
I don’t have a favorite violin-gram, but there are a few that stand out to me. Namely, the “Secret-Santa” violin gram was an experience that I will never forget. This violin-gram is the definition of magic – my friend Bethany Hutson discovered me via Backpacker Magazine. As a teacher, she was approached by a student who revealed that he had a dream of purchasing a violin to learn the song, “Mary Did You Know” for his mother, who had been unable to pursue her own dream of learning how to play the violin. Of course, I agreed to do a violin-gram for this student… but as I pondered how I was going to do this, a sudden flash of inspiration in my mind simply said, “Buy him the violin.” Frantically, I texted Bethany and asked what she thought of this idea. With ZERO planning or any clue how I was going to do this, I went live on my personal Facebook account and the first ever “secret-santa” gram was born.
What happened next was a mind-blowing vortex of love and light – strangers from all over the country banded together to purchase a violin for a boy that they had never met. Two days later, I was en-route to Henry Bischofberger Violins in Kirkland, Washington to purchase a violin for this young man.
One week later, my husband and I made the drive to this boy’s school, and under the “guise” as a Christmas Violin Concert, I performed and spoke for an hour to a room packed with 200+ students and teachers. At the end of the concert, I made the big, “reveal” about the secret santa violin gram – and the young man learned that I had played the entire concert on a violin that was now his very own. Needless to say, it was a beautiful and emotional moment.
Another one of my favorite violin-grams involved my good friend Marc Colon. I met Marc at his place of employment, and we ended up becoming Facebook friends as well. One day, he shared a short video with me – the video was a clip of him playing his bass guitar. Marc shared with me that he had been feeling a bit “down” during the holidays, and that he was trying to focus on positive things in his life – music was one of the things that made him feel really good. In a quick message, he wrote:
“I recently reposted a silly Christmas video thing I did on bass about 5 years ago…I’d love your opinion on it! It doesn’t have the fancy background your posts do, but you can hear it pretty well. Thanks.”
Naturally, the gears in my mind started turning almost instantly. I knew that I wanted to do a violin-gram for Marc, but I didn’t know exactly what I wanted it to look like. Almost simultaneously, I had the brilliant opportunity to be featured in a video on KOMO News’ Facebook page for my Musical Moutaineering.
The video on KOMO was seen over 60,000 times! As I scrolled through the comments, I was overwhelmed with reading the positivity – so many people were deeply touched by our music in the mountains. As a musician, knowing that your music has had an impact on somebody – knowing that it has brightened somebody’s day – is an incredibly powerful feeling. I knew immediately that I wanted Marc to experience this same feeling through the sharing of his music. I decided to give Marc a violin-gram where I played along with the short musical clip that he had sent me – and I decided to ask for a “COMMENT FLASH MOB” – so, I asked everybody who watched the video to flood the comments with positive messages for Marc, telling him how the music made them feel.
In the end, Marc received COUNTLESS positive comments about his music, and nearly 500 people watched the video. Not only that, but isn’t this funky bass/violin version of White Christmas super fun? I was so excited about how this violin-gram turned out. The silver-lining on this violin-gram is that every since this moment, Marc has been on an uphill climb to improving his life – he has started meditating and is focusing on being more positive in his life each and everyday. I am continually amazed by the power of doing something kind for somebody else.
Violin-gram fun facts:
Number of times that I have visibly cried in a violin-gram: 14
Number of times that I have said, “Hey everybody” as my initial greeting: 21
Number of times that I have worn my hair in a braid: 24
Number of times that I have worn a red/black lumberjack shirt during a violin-gram: 3
Number of times that I have worn a hat to disguise the fact that I just got back from hiking: 2
Each time I do a violin-gram, I silently close my eyes and I ask that I have the right words to share with the intended recipient, and with anybody else who might be watching. I ask that I can continue to be a beacon of light and positivity in this world, and that through a combination of my music and words, that I can become a conduit for happiness and healing.
What’s next for the violin-gram?
I really feel like I am just getting started. As requests continue to roll in, I am continuously overwhelmed with new ideas to make these moments special and meaningful for not only the intended recipients, but for any potential viewer. I am so grateful for the people that have entrusted me to hold their most special memories – for the people who have trusted me to share their stories, which, in turn, have given hope to so many people.
My ultimate dream is to travel the world as an intrepid adventurer – taking my violin to some of the deepest reaches of the earth and the most beautiful places on the planet in order to film violin-grams… in order to bring more good into the world, through my music. I can feel and see the life-changing power of music and the mountains, and I want to continue to use that as a vehicle for more good in the world. I also want to focus my efforts on using these violin-grams as a powerful instrument (no pun intended!) of change – i.e. more “secret santa” grams… more life changing experiences. I dream of a larger platform than Facebook (think: TV, Netflix documentary style or a syndicated YouTube Channel). I want to be the female Steve Irwin with a violin, who travels the planet, climbing mountains, inspiring others, having adventures and changing lives – one song at a time. This is the ideal combination of everything that I love in life: inspiration, creativity, bringing good into the world, music, adventure, mountains, travel and love. I know that this reality exists, and I can feel it coming to me, even as I write these words.
When I filmed my very first violin-gram, I had no idea that it would become something that I love so deeply. I had no idea that it would change lives – including my own. I had no idea that one day, I would openly weep on a live video… or that one day I would have the opportunity to give a boy a violin. It has been such an incredibly beautiful endeavor, and I am so unbelievably grateful for the joy that it has brought into my life, and into the lives of others. I don’t know how this is going to unfold, I only know that it will. I have felt called to share my love of music and my love of adventure – I have seen through my personal Facebook account that this has been life-changing. I know that I want to continue to explore this unique modality of love in a deeper way, so that I can bring it to more people – so that I can be the change that I want to see in this world.