I could not put this one down! In The Violin Conspiracy, Ray McMillan is a young, Black talented musician with dreams of becoming a professional violinist. As circumstances have it, he is faced with so many obstacles, the odds are against him. Ray’s mom thinks he is wasting his time with music and wants him to get a menial job to help pay the bills. He cannot afford to buy an instrument so he is limited to what they provide at school with no access during vacation time, tthe continual micro-aggressions and blatant racism Ray faces don’t help, yet he continues to pursue his dream.
It is important to have that one person in your life who believes in you and cheers you on, and that person for Ray is his grandmother. She loves to hear him play, encourages him to follow his dreams, and gives him her grandfather’s old violin that was stored in the attic – an instrument the man played to keep himself alive and safe when he was a slave. Ray treasures this beat up, old violin for its beautiful sound all the history it represents. Once he learns its origin and its incredible financial value, everyone seems to come out of the woodwork to claim it. When the coveted violin is stolen, the thief could be anyone!
The author, Brendan Slocumb immerses us in the world of classical music, high profile performance and competition, with all its beauty and darkness at once. I was engrossed in the story of a young Black musician striving for his goals despite pushback, and a mystery to boot… The Violin Conspiracy hit the spot for me!
Thank you to booktrib.com for publishing my review!
About Author Brendan Slocumb
Brendan Nicholaus Slocumb was born in Yuba City, California and was raised in Fayetteville, North Carolina. He holds a degree in music education (with concentrations in violin and viola) from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. For more than twenty years he has been a public and private school music educator and has performed with orchestras throughout Northern Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, DC.
In his spare time, Brendan enjoys writing, exercising, collecting comic books and action figures, and performing with his rock band, Geppetto’s Wüd.
A personal note by Jen…
The Love of Music and The Viola Catastrophe
I have found that music is a big part of a child’s development and my husband and I are lucky enough to have raised 2 talented musicians. Both attended music classes before they were old enough for school. Our older son took piano lessons, played the beloved recorder in third grade, tried out the cello and the clarinet for a hot minute, and finally settled on guitar. He played electric guitar in a rock band in middle school, competed in Battle of the Bands, and performed at local restaurants and outdoor theaters. He convinced us to buy what seemed like a million pedals and different size amps, and of course we needed a drum set for rehearsals so he dabbled there, too. On the night before his high school graduation he performed with his acoustic and he continues playing guitar as a hobby today.
Our younger son, now in college also played piano starting at 5 years old, then recorder, drums, and in middle school he picked up the viola. This instrument stuck and he played in the middle and high school orchestras, chamber orchestras, several quartets, the Norwalk Youth Symphony, and even now on breaks, just for fun, you may see him busking downtown with friends. Now a sophomore at Emory University, during the academic year he takes lessons from a gentleman who is the Associate Principle Viola of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and he currently plays his viola in the very impressive Emory University Symphony Orchestra.
In high school, my viola playing son and a fellow musician who plays the string bass were chosen to participate in a music workshop at Western Connecticut State University during the school day so carpooling to split the driving was in order. I was on pickup duty and arrived at the university to collect the boys. I didn’t realize how big an instrument the bass was and we all struggled to fit it in my Jeep, having to put the seats down on one side while leaving the other side intact so both boys had a place to sit. After a lot of wiggling and inching up and back, we were thrilled to finally squeeze in the massive instrument. The boys buckled up and I put my car in reverse and started to back out. You cannot imagine the horror when the crunch I felt under my back tire registered! This was our Viola Catastrophe! My son’s viola had never made it into the car, unfortunately left on the ground in the parking lot, just in the path for me toI slowly and gently flatten it into a heap of firewood. Unlike the violin in The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb, this instrument was not quite an heirloom but it did have value and it was tragic for me. At the time, my son did take the opportunity to tell me he was ready for a bigger and better viola, so with a little help from insurance, and the skill of our trusted violin and viola maker and restorer, he upgraded and now has a beautiful instrument that he still plays today.
All is well that ends well but take note…keep track of your instruments, store them in protective cases and insure them! If you are interested in hearing the Emory University Symphony Orchestra, an incredibly talented group of students, check out the video below from their recent concert!
Emory University Symphony Orchestra