Professional violinist and fiddler Jeremy Kittel visits PA for orchestra workshop and concert

Bella Coulter , Staff Writer

By Bella Coulter

The PA orchestra had the privilege of playing with and learning from U.S. National Scottish Fiddle Champion Jeremy Kittel last month. This experience came about because of the connections orchestra teacher Mary Hughes made at a conference a few years ago. 

“A few years ago [Kittel] was here and he did jazz with us,” said Hughes. “I saw him at a conference and then I saw him perform with his group and then I contacted him. He was so nice three years ago that when we were doing Celtic music we had him come back.”

The day began with a once-in-a-lifetime workshop with the professional, where the orchestra members learned the unique qualities of Celtic music just in time for their concert later that night. 

“If you wanted to continue in Celtic music you would do certain bowing techniques or embellishments, which would mean adding things to the music, so he worked with them on that,” said Hughes. 

There are a lot of major differences between Celtic music and normal pieces that the performers normally play, so they had to concentrate on adding those extra embellishments the style required.

“You can do different bowing to make it sound more Celtic,” said sophomore violist Julia Mascolo. “Once you learn it, it’s pretty easy to memorize compared to normal music, because it’s like a pattern. I didn’t like Celtic music much before this, but after it’s pretty fun.”

Kittel also taught the students to learn a Celtic music piece by ear, a difficult but common practice when playing Celtic music professionally.

“I’m really bad at doing stuff by ear, but he was able to do it slowly and then speed it up to the tempo and repeat sections if we needed to so that we could learn it,” said Mascolo. 

“In a way it is more difficult because a lot of it is you learn it by ear, but it’s also the kind of music that just flows really easily compared to other pieces,” said sophomore violinist Isabeau Spears. “It’s just different and we haven’t had a lot of experience with Celtic music.”

As for the actual performance, the students weren’t fazed with the presence of a professional: “It wasn’t intimidating at all really,” said junior bassist Grey Embry. “Honestly I kind of forgot he was there for a little bit.”

Mascolo agreed: “He was pretty nice.”

“He’s an amazing player,” said Hughes. “I told the students that when I was in high school, I never had the opportunity to accompany a professional player like that.”

The students finished the day with an incredible concert, and a newfound appreciation for Celtic music.

“That was a very unique and special opportunity,” said Hughes.