Man follows own path with violin

Jeff Walters

Most nights, while traveling in and around the cul-de-sacs of the Summerville Place subdivision, the sounds of violin practice can be heard. The lilting tunes emanate after dark from the Walters house.

The music is not created by 5-year-old Jack; he's already in bed. It's at that time that Jack's dad, 43-year-old Jeff Walters, retires to the laundry room to practice. This isn't a lifelong activity that's carried over into adulthood. It's not even a reunion with an instrument he abandoned long ago.

Walters is practicing his violin in his laundry room because he always wanted to learn to play this instrument. Seven years ago, he decided to do it.

Walters moved to Charleston in 2003 from Atlanta. He's a software engineer.

He played a trumpet in middle school, but always liked the sound of a violin. In his mid-30s, he tried to teach himself with the help of a DVD and a methods book.

It was music teacher Alison Harvey, though, who provided the early instruction and then later encouraged him to join the Summerville Community Orchestra.

The 40-person orchestra's mission statement is simple: to provide opportunity for volunteer musicians to play for the pure joy of it. This struck the perfect note for Walters.

The Summerville Community Orchestra is primarily composed of amateur musicians who mostly played in high school or college bands.

Walters says he hasn't met anybody who started as an adult.

During his first few rehearsals, he merely tried not to play a sour note.

That has a tendency to let people know where you're sitting. All he wanted to do was enjoy the music and blend in.

Walters later started taking lessons from the orchestra's conductor, Alex Agrest.

This took him to even greater heights, thanks to the conductor's own prowess with the instrument. Walters felt blessed to be exposed to the Russian immigrant's vast knowledge and considerable teaching skills.

Walters played catch-up to many others who were far more experienced. But it was tough for anyone else to match his passion.

The Summerville Community Orchestra plays four concerts a year. There is no concert hall.

Performances are held in the sanctuaries of Northwood and Summerville Baptist churches.

If nothing else, the orchestra's musical offerings are diverse. At its upcoming concerts on Jan. 30-31, patrons will hear a Beach Boys medley, an Irving Berlin Symphonic Portrait and selections from "Star Wars." Not too many iPods probably include that musical smorgasbord.

Sitting among his fellow musicians during those performances will be Jeff Walters.

He loves this departure from his computer and it's not always easy to hide the smile while keeping proper position on the violin's chin rest.

The obvious lesson here, I suppose, is that it's never too late to learn something. There certainly aren't too many adults standing in line to learn to play the violin.

For Walters, he knows that this road requires patience, discipline and enthusiasm. We adults don't always embrace those qualities.

Many of us think we know it all, been there/done that, and have the T-shirt to prove it.

Here's a guy who has taken a difficult path from the laundry room to the concert stage for one reason, just for the pure joy of it.

Sounds like Walters and the Summerville Community Orchestra found each other at just the right time.

Reach Warren Peper @ 937-5577 or wpeper@