Katie Lawton Carpenter is a musician, playing violin, with a vast repertoire. Her audience can vary from young children to adults enjoying orchestra or blue grass.
GA!: When did you start playing violin?
Katie: I actually don’t have any memories of not playing the violin, starting lesson before I turned three. I was surprised, when I started school, to find that everyone else didn’t play a violin. I assumed everyone went home and practiced their violins. My mother puts my first violin on top of their Christmas tree as an ornament – it’s tiny.
GA!: What training have you had in music?
Katie: I started with Suzuki violin lessons and loved playing the violin so much that I kept studying music in college. I studied at Furman University, in Greenville SC , receiving a Bachelor’s of Music in Performance, and East Carolina University receiving a Master’s of Music in Performance and Suzuki Pedagogy.
GA!: What brought you to Gaston County?
Katie: I had a job teaching Suzuki violin lessons with Community School of the Arts in Charlotte and heard of an opportunity in Gaston County Schools to start a strings program. I interviewed and got the job! 200 students and three fantastic years later, the program was cut because of the tightening budget. For a moment I thought about moving to my hometown of Greenville, SC, but I was dating this guy…. who’s now my husband!
GA!: Where does your music take you?
Katie: I’ve been exposed to all lot of different perspectives and groups of people. I’ve played in vineyards, cathedrals, courtyards, and museums, at weddings and funerals, small gatherings and large parties. Because of my music, I went with a praise band to the south of France to lead the worship for a missionary kids workshop. I traveled with a Suzuki violin tour group to Sweden, and was able to visit the town of Mora where my great-grandmother was born. Most recently I played in Gotha, Germany, Gastonia’s sister city, with a little band called “Katie and Her Crazy Uncles” at a statewide festival called Thüringentag.
GA!: Tell us about Katie and Her Crazy Uncles.
Katie: It all started with my friend, Ken Todd. I had a group of little violin students playing at Ruth Angel’s building dedication on a hot Sunday afternoon in June. After the students performed, a spry white haired gentleman came up to me and asked for my phone number. And, for some reason I gave it to him! Through Ken I met Royce Robinson. Royce wrote great children’s songs and received a grant to record the music. Since we were working and practicing all the time and my mother knew I didn’t have a boyfriend, she inquired as to whether there were any available bachelors in the group. To help her understand, I explained to my mother that my band mates were old enough to be my uncles, and crazy too! I came back and told the guys and they loved it.
GA!: What are you doing now with your music?
Katie: During the day I’m the chorus teacher at Belmont Middle School. In the afternoons I am busy teaching violin lessons to students. On the weekends I play weddings and fun gigs with friends and even sing in the choir at my church when I’m in town.
I also teach using the Suzuki philosophy of teaching. Dr. Shinichi Suzuki realized that children around the learn to speak their native language with ease. He began to apply the basic principles of language acquisition to the learning of music. Just as a young child would hear the language before speaking, I like students to listen to the recording before beginning to play. The ideas of parent responsibility, loving encouragement, constant repetition are some of the special features of the Suzuki approach.
GA!: Can you explain fiddle vs violin playing?
Katie: This is my favorite question. People ask me this all the time! I usually joke that violins have “strings” and fiddles have “strangs”. The short answer is no, there is not really a difference between the fiddle and the violin as an instrument. Just like someone can use their voice to sing opera or to rap, I can play Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and The Devil Went Down to Georgia on the same instrument.
GA!: Where can a person go to hear you play?
Katie: The next “just for fun” event I’m playing at is at the Adult Recreation Center in Gastonia with the Toad Hall Rock and Roll Review Band on Friday, November 1 at 7:00. Come out to enjoy an eclectic playlist of everything from Elvis to Creedence Clearwater Revival.