Violin prodigy shares love of classical music
BENA - Chad Hoopes comes across as a typical 17-year-old. He enjoys listening to musical artist Adele, frequently uses the word "cool," and talks about wanting to see new places like Australia.
But when he drew his 300-year-old violin to his chin and began to play for students at the Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig School on Wednesday, Hoopes was anything but ordinary.
Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig, east of Cass Lake on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation, was one of six schools chosen by Classical Minnesota Public Radio to receive a free performance by Hoopes, who was named MPR's Artist-In-Residence.
Now in its third year, the Artist-In-Residence program brings outstanding artists to Minnesota audiences. The acclaimed Parker Quartet was the first Artist-In-Residence in 2010 and the vocal ensemble Cantus was named Artist-In-Residence in 2011.
Hoopes, who started playing violin before the age of 4, began his violin studies in Minnesota, where he lived until he turned 12.
He has appeared on national television and has won numerous competitions, including the prestigious Yehudi Menuhin International Competition for Young Violinists, where he took first place at the age of 12.
He currently lives in Cleveland, Ohio.
At Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig, Hoopes played from memory several classical pieces for students. Between selections, he answered questions from students and from Classical MPR host Steve Staruch, who is on tour with Hoopes.
This is the first time the Artist-in-Residence program has targeted younger audiences, Staruch said.
"This was a new thrust for MPR to visit schools," he said. "Chad's only 17 and is a unique musical character. Because the idea is to promote classical music for new audiences, this seemed like the perfect fit."
What makes Hoopes different from other musicians his age is his maturity, Staruch said.
He recalled meeting Hoopes' first violin teacher last year, who he asked how she felt about playing a role in Hoopes' musical career.
"She said, 'Everything you heard tonight was with Chad since he was 3½,'" Staruch said. "Chad is more than just a technically proficient violinist. He is a true artist. I've never met anybody who plays with such maturity and such heartfelt passion as he does. Sometimes it takes a little while to develop that maturity, but he seems to have developed it throughout. Or perhaps it was always there."
Before performing his last musical piece for students at the school, Hoopes encouraged students to follow their dreams.
"This younger generation has a lot to offer and a lot to say," he said. "I don't think any of us should be afraid to chase our dreams."
After his presentation, Hoopes received a performance from the school's drum and dance circle, which featured six males drumming on one large drum while several female students, dressed in traditional American Indian garments, danced around the drummers.
Principal Janey Blanchard said she enjoyed Hoopes' performance and added it was beneficial for students to hear him play.
"The students here can be very isolated," she said. "They got a touch of something we would never get. A lot of them will never go to New York or even the Twin Cities to see this. It opened some eyes and it's great. I hope it expands their knowledge of music."
Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig does not offer the same music curriculum found in many traditional public schools, such as orchestra, band and choir, Blanchard said. Students instead learn cultural activities such as drumming, dancing and singing.
Student Adam White, who is a senior, said he was "blown away" by Hoopes' performance.
"I've never seen this before and I'm a big fan of music," he said. "I personally enjoy every type of music, anything I can hear that inspires me."
Senior Nicole Roberts called Hoopes' performance "absolutely radical."
"It blew my mind," she said. "Everybody likes music, but I just haven't been in touch with classical music as much as I am with other types of music. It was nice to actually hear some of it firsthand."
All of the students who attended Hoopes' performance were offered a free signed CD recording of Hoopes.
MPR's Artist-In-Residence program is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment's Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.