Violinist Rachel Barton Pine, indomitable in face of injury, savors classical and heavy-metal journeys
Thursday, October 18, 2012, Donald Rosenberg, The Plain Dealer
Many musicians are versatile. And then there's Rachel Barton Pine.
The Chicago-born violinist savors the artistic life in so many genres that you have to wonder if she can possibly excel
in any of them. But she does. Pine has proved her exceptional gifts as winner of international competitions, soloist with
orchestras around the world and Baroque violinist with Trio Settecento, her early-music ensemble.
Oh, and rock musician. When she isn't playing Bach and friends on her 1742 "ex-Soldat" Guarneri del Gesu, Pine can be
found performing heavy metal on a five-string fretless Viper violin of recent vintage.
"The sort of mainstream violin repertoire is definitely the thing I'm most passionate about," said the exuberant Pine, 38,
by phone from a tour stop. "But I would say you can't eat nothing but steak, even if it's great steak. I like to mix it up."
She'll do so next week throughout Northeast Ohio -- with both violins. In addition to performances of Bruch's Violin
Concerto No. 1 with CityMusic Cleveland, Pine will appear with Earthen Grave, her heavy-metal band, Saturday, Oct. 20
at the Iron Ward in the city's Slavic Village neighborhood.
Moving from electric violin to acoustic could be tricky, Pine said, but the reverse has never been a problem.
"While you certainly want to be in tune and play as well on electric violin, because you're going through distortion and
amplification, the level of refinement is a totally different type of approach," she said.
"You can just let loose and crash away. The only thing I won't be able to do is put on my black nail polish in-between. I
will change into my leather."
Pine has immersed herself in myriad musical interests since childhood. She took up violin at 3, when she was dazzled by
young players in church. She advanced so quickly that she made her solo debut with the Chicago Symphony when she
A transistor radio introduced her to popular music, which helped the serious young violinist "turn off the analytic side
of my brain at the end of the day." Even so, Pine thrived on her beloved instrument, triumphing in major competitions --
at 17, she was the youngest violinist and first American to win a gold medal at the Johann Sebastian Bach International
Competition in Leipzig, Germany -- and performing with major orchestras.
Then her musical life came to a sudden, if temporary, halt. In January 1995, while stepping off a commuter train in
Winnetka, Ill., the strap on Pine's violin case got caught in the door. The train dragged her hundreds of yards and ran
over her, severing one leg and damaging the other.
But two years of recovery and 40 or so surgeries since the accident couldn't thwart the indomitable Pine. She resumed
touring and recording -- "the whole nine yards," as she put it -- and continues to pursue her art with gleeful fulfillment.
Pine thrives on staying busy. In recent weeks, she played a concert with her trio in Mississippi, an unaccompanied
recital and program with piano in New Mexico and the Sibelius concerto in Idaho. After this week's concerts, she'll head
to Puerto Rico to perform all five Mozart violin concertos in one evening.
Pine's artistic devotion is also reflected in the work she does with her foundation, which she established in 2001 to
promote classical music. She champions the music, whether teaching children or playing heavy metal.
"I don't consider myself in any way to be a crossover artist," she said. "Normally, when I do the nonclassical in
conjunction with my classical appearances, they're for the whole purpose of outreach. Mixing classical into the [rock]
performance persuades people to give classical a try."
The violinist is delighted to travel full time with her husband, Greg Pine, and their 1-year-old daughter, Sylvia.
"Wherever we go, it's that week's home," said Pine. "At least we're together and getting to have lots of fun adventures."
Still, she looks forward to planting herself in Cleveland with her family for an entire week to don leather with her
heavy-metal colleagues amid five performances of the Bruch concerto with CityMusic.
"We'll be repeating and repeating the concerto, and it's going to allow it to deepen in a way I normally don't have the
luxury of doing," she said. "It's also interesting to go into different neighborhoods. This is the kind of thing I really
believe in. I'm thrilled to be part of it."