TheCreativeRoutine is Playing Music with Jeff the Violinist
I recently had what is at once one of the strangest and most exciting experiences I’ve had in recent memory. My good friend, and sometimes creative partner, Taylor Raboin and I were recently in downtown Nashville, tentatively talking through and planning an upcoming project we’re working on.
Fate would have it that we would spot a certain, peculiar fellow walking around downtown with a wooden staff that resembled the one Moses most have used to part the Red Sea, along with a backpack that looked large and sturdy enough to carry supplies for half a season of Man v. Wild.
Naturally we struck up conversation with him, not breaking pace as we walked alongside to wherever he was headed. I noticed a violin case in his collection of supplies, and before anyone really knew what was happening, he was sitting in front of a mood-setting sea green wall playing his bright red violin, as I snapped glorious images to the amazement of pedestrian on-lookers. Sometimes you instantly realize that you’re documenting content unlike anything you normally do or will likely do in the future. Everything just clicked. It was beautiful. Jeffrey serenaded us with some of the most surreal bluegrass and mountain music my ears had ever witnessed, as music and conversation wove into one another.
upon meeting jeff; with taylor
Jeff is one of those individuals you don’t really believe is real unless you meet him yourself. He’s a musical vagabond, a fellow who wonders from state to state playing music with local friends in between doing seasonal farming at marijuana farms in both Wisconsin and California. Yes, he’s been to 44 states. And yes he’s homeless. But he’s told me he prefers the term home-free. He owns virtually no possessions aside from the ones he carries on his person at all times. Yet despite his untraditional lifestyle, he seems to be one of the most stable individuals I’ve ever met. I used to joke all the time when I was a kid that I wanted to be homeless when I grew up. Yet the more he spoke to Taylor and I, the more I started to wonder if he’d figured out something the rest of us hadn’t.
jeff serenading an entire block
After playing beautiful music for the entertainment of an entire city block, we took the only logical next step: cabbing with Jeff back to campus to find more buffoonery to engage in. Although there is no photo documentation of the rest of the day’s event’s, you can only imagine the number of eyes that stared when we strolled into one of the dining halls alongside our new wooden staff toting, mountain man friend. Two days later we invited Jeff back to campus for another proper jam session, this time playing alongside a cellist friend of ours in the music school.
Enter Alex Krew
master cello commander, alex krew
Alex is trained in classical cello; Jeff does mainly bluegrass and folksy music. Seeing the two of them jam together was an otherworldly musical fusion that probably shouldn’t have been legal. Much like a few days prior, every so often different spectators would pit stop at our musical jam fusion to pay their respects to the brilliance that was taking place before their eyes. There was even an important looking photographer who worked for a still unknown publication that stopped for like 15 minutes to spectate and take photos in a very important looking way.
Alex and Jeff joining forces was a meeting of the minds; it truly was a musical event. They seamlessly rotated between playing different classical and non-classical pieces, all while talking music, and exchanging notes.
The next day Jeff was gone. Off to North Carolina to play a gig I believe. Where he is now, I don’t know. Perhaps he’s upped his state counter to 45 by this time. What an interesting individual. I wonder how often he has experiences like this, and how many friends and musical compatriots he has all over the country. It’s amazing to see someone who literally seized his own destiny and did as he saw fit. He dropped out of school, against everyone’s advice, moved to New York City, then proceeded to get a gig smoking and harvesting weed for a living, while playing music all over the country and seeing more states than you could recite from memory.
Just another example that there’s no one pathway to anything. If you’re passionate and confident, the only thing keeping you from seeing if you can fulfill your dreams is you. Of course, no one is guaranteed success. But how crippling is life if you’re not willing to take the risk?