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Street fiddler chases dreams

Jesse Brazil, 20, hopes to put out his own CD

Posted: March 4, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: March 4, 2013 2:00 a.m.

Brazil carries his violin on his back as he rides his skateboard to the Target parking lot on Thursday.

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Some people stop and stare, others merely walk on by. A few do a quick double-take, as if to confirm their initial perception.

A young man, his foot tapping feverishly to keep the beat, is playing a violin on the sidewalk in a shopping plaza.

It’s not something typically seen every day, unless you happen to frequent the Target or JoAnn’s Fabrics off Magic Mountain Parkway in Valencia.

There you will find Jesse Brazil, a 20-year-old former Master’s College student. His bow drawing frantically across the strings of his instrument, his violin case open next to him, and his skateboard propped up against the wall behind him.

The case has represented his livelihood for the past several years: soliciting donations from passersby. A crude, cardboard sign inside the case gives his name and number to contact for violin lessons.

The skateboard is one of his primary modes of travel. Four or five days a week he will board or bike over to his familiar corner of the sidewalk to set up shop for the day.

“But I am saving money for a car,” he said Wednesday, a smile flashing across his face.

Family ties

Brazil said much of his passion for music was instilled in him by his parents.

His father and mother had two major rules for Brazil and his seven siblings: first, learn to play an instrument.

“Music is something that sticks with you your whole life,” Brazil said, his fingers instinctively plucking the strings of his violin. “That was something they wanted us all to have.”

The second lesson? Learn to swim.

“I guess so we wouldn’t drown,” Brazil said, laughing.

So for the last five years Brazil has performed in public areas, sometimes to earn money, sometimes just because he enjoys the reaction he gets.

“When I first started it seemed like a lot of people would just walk by,” Brazil said. “Now people at least smile or wave.”

For some of those years, playing was his primary source of income. He would clock in for hours-long shifts of street serenading, playing until his fingers hurt.

But it added up to about $20 an hour, enough to support him as he started attending The Master’s College.

“It was a lot like any other job,” Brazil said. “Even if it’s hot outside or hard to play, I needed to get out there.”

Audio interests

While in college, Brazil studied audio technology, a natural offshoot of his interest in music.

But after a time, he realized that he wanted to pursue his true passion.

“For me a degree just doesn’t matter a whole lot,” Brazil said, nestling his instrument in his arm. “After all, I’m self-employed.”

So he left school at the end of last year and is focusing on attracting more students to give violin lessons to.

Brazil said he only has one client currently, but he is hoping his viral street-violin campaign will let more people know what he has to offer.

Musical tastes

Brazil said he generally plays two primary types of music, Celtic and hip-hop.

For Celtic songs, Brazil keeps his playing light and happy, moving along with the jaunty tune.

As for hip hop, Brazil said he will take a portion of a popular song and incorporate it into his playing.

But it’s not just music that inspires Brazil to play along.

“Sometimes I’ll hear a car alarm go off in the parking lot, and I’ll play a little harmony along with that,” Brazil said.

As for what the future holds, Brazil said he is working on music in the hopes of putting out his own CD.

Until then, he’ll stand in his usual spot, case open, and chase his dreams one note at a time.

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