Sam Weiser
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Sam Weiser


Band Jazz Bluegrass


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"World on A String"

The world on a string
Violin prodigy Sam Weiser likes Tootsie Pops and fantasy football. And at 15 he’s already making a name for himself as a musician.

November 17, 2009

Predestined? You be the judge. All Sam Weiser knows is that he was just 2 years old when his life changed by hearing a neighbor play violin. “I was completely engrossed and apparently asked my mother for months, ‘Can I have a violin?’ I got one for my third birthday,’’ he says.

Sam is only 15 now, but the Connecticut teen has become the first pre-college student to gain entrance to the Manhattan School of Music as a double-major in classical and jazz violin. He also just released a stunning EP, “Sam i Am,’’ to be followed by a remarkably mature album by the same name in February. He’s a prodigy who fuses gypsy jazz, classical, bluegrass, and western swing, backed by established players such as SONiA of disappear fear (the album’s producer), guitarist Lulo Reinhardt (jazz legend Django Reinhardt’s great-nephew), and Dennis Chambers, who has drummed with Santana and Parliament Funkadelic.

At the center is Sam, a slim, unassuming youth who shows his age by craving jelly beans, Tootsie Pops, Madden NFL PlayStation games, and fantasy football. But his gifted, often uncannily fast improvisations, seize the day on wide-ranging tunes by Santana, Eddie Palmieri, Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, Bill Monroe, and George Shearing.

“When we were in the studio, Sam played like he’d been doing this for decades. He was very focused and some of the tracks were first takes,’’ says SONiA, who also sings on the disc. “It was a joy working with him.’’

However, mention that the album was recorded digitally and mixed in analog and Sam just shrugs. “I don’t know those fancy terms, but it’s been pretty cool,’’ he says of the process, while sitting backstage at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington, where he recently performed with SONiA as part of a tour honoring Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter and avid violinist who was killed in Pakistan by terrorists in 2002.

Sam is donating the profits from his album to the Daniel Pearl Foundation and will play at the last stop of this year’s Friends of Daniel Festival (FODFest) at the Infinity Music Hall in Norfolk, Conn., not far from Great Barrington as the tour comes full circle after also visiting the West Coast and Taiwan.

“Sam is a great kid. He really cares about this cause,’’ says Todd Mack, the Sheffield-based tour director and emcee. The free shows (donations are accepted) feature many guests from each local community. The Great Barrington date included Boston folk star Ellis Paul.

Sam’s link to Pearl came through Mark O’Connor, the Grammy-winning violinist whom Pearl admired deeply and who helped mentor Sam. After Pearl was killed, Maine craftsman Jonathan Cooper made a special Daniel Pearl memorial violin and gave it to O’Connor, who passes it annually to a standout pupil. Sam won it the past year and played it in the studio.
“Until I heard about the violin, I didn’t know much about Daniel, but it’s astonishing to feel the connection now,’’ he says. “It was humbling for me to get the violin. Had I not gotten it, I probably wouldn’t have been on the tour, nor would I have met SONiA.’

Sam’s interest in violin was fueled by attending O’Connor’s “string camps’’ in Nashville, San Diego, and now New York. Sam started by learning the Suzuki method (playing music by ear before sight reading) in Westport, Conn., at age 3, then went to his first string camp at 9.

O’Connor, who has played with everyone from Emmylou Harris to Yo-Yo Ma, gushes about Sam’s talent. “When I think of violin players coming up in the new era, I often think of Sam,’’ he says. “Because at 15 years old, he embodies what is so good about what so many young people want to do with this instrument today. When classical, jazz, and folk music styles can be so intertwined in his training and therefore in his playing, he already has become someone you want to take notice of.’’

Sam repaid the favor by recording O’Connor’s “Gypsy Fantastic,’’ a startling track with Sam bowing at tremendous speed with a dizzying array of swoops and trills. “Mark’s camps have opened so many doors for me. And the teachers there are amazing,’’ says Sam, adding that Boston’s jazzgrass legend, Matt Glaser, is one of them. The camps endorse “alternative violin’’ playing, meaning a composite of styles. The teen also studied contemporary improvisation at the New England Conservatory this past summer with noted teacher Tanya Kalmanovitch.

Asked to name his favorite violinists, other than those previously mentioned, Sam rattles off Joshua Bell, Itzhak Perlman, and Jascha Heifetz - not everyday fare for most 15-year-olds. “I also listen to a lot of horn music, because the vocabulary is so much greater,’’ he says. “I particularly like Cannonball Adderley.’’

Sam’s family is 100 percent behind him, though neither of his parents, both lawyers, were professional musicians. When asked if he plays an instrument, Sam’s father, Bruce, says, “I just play the radio.’’ Sam’s mother, Tami, is a lover of many musical styles. She helped draft the diverse list of songs that Sam did in the studio. The boy’s aunt Mara handles his MySpace and Facebook sites.

The result is music that should vault Sam into the national eye. “He’s a classically trained musician who has the heart of a folkie,’’ says Terry Irons, vice president of disappear fear records. “That’s why we’re happy to be putting out his album. I can’t wait for more people to hear him.’’

- Boston Globe


Sam I Am was released February 16, 2010
Will be recording his second CD in April 2011



Sixteen year old Staples High School junior Sam Weiser began playing the violin at 3. He is the first and only Manhattan School of Music Precollege student ever to double major in classical violin and jazz violin. He studies classical violin with eminent pedagogue Patinka Kopec and jazz violin with artist Sara Caswell. Sam was concertmaster and soloist performing Vivaldi’s “Spring” at the Norwalk Youth symphony at age ten and has since been concertmaster of numerous orchestras, including the Fairfield County Honors orchestra, Staples High School Chamber Orchestra, Westport all city and Staples High School Symphonic Orchestra . He was the soloist and educator for the 33rd Annual Fairfield County Strings Festival in 2010, the soloist at the music for youth benefit in 2006. In his first year of eligibility, Sam was a first violinist with Ct all-state and western regional orchestras. He studies chamber music under Asya Meshberg for six years and performs chamber music regularly at venues such as Steinway Hall in New York City and local civic events.Samuel attends the Heifetz summer institute, studying intensively with Mrs. Kopec and Grigory Kalinovsky and has attended California Summer Music under Yale Prof. Wendy Sharp.

Sam is the 2008/2009 recipient of the Daniel Pearl Memorial Violin and is deeply honored to have been an emissary for music as a universal communication between all people. Sam also is the 2009 winner of the National American String Teacher Association Alternative Styles Award for his jazz improvisations. He has attended the Mark O’Connor Fiddle Camp in Nashville and Mark O’Connor’s String conference in San Diego and New York for the past seven years where he was introduced to jazz and fiddling styles and has studied with prominent artists including Rachel Barton-Pine, Angella Ahn, Christian Howes, Buddy Spicher, Billy Contreras, Yale Strom, Johnny Gimble and other legendary and cutting edge violinists.

Sam has performed with Mark both as a soloist and as an ensemble member of the American String Celebration at numerous venues, such as Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall, The Egg, and Pace University.

Sam’s debut cd, sam I am, an eclectic mix of jazz, bluegrass, latin, and gypsy music was released February 16, 2010 by indie label Disappear Records. All profits for the sale of the cd are being donated to the Daniel Pearl Foundation and FODfest , inc, a music tour commemorating the life of Danny Pearl . Produced by Grammy nominee SONiA, sam I am , has been lauded by the Boston globe as “stunning… mature.. gifted, uncannily fast improvisations” and has been acclaimed by artist including Darol Anger and Mark O’Connor.

Sam is a Mets, Jets and Giants fan, a Madden game aficionado and fantasy baseball and fantasy football enthusiast.