Senior Clara McClain devotes herself to the violin


During the Oct. 4 Homecoming parade down Central Avenue, senior Clara McClain (center) and members of Chamber Orchestra perform on a float.

After taking her mom’s advice, senior Clara McClain discovered something she would later fall in love with.

“My mom convinced me to play the violin […] hearing the way it sounded, I knew it was what I wanted to do,” she said.

It wasn’t always that way, however.

“I originally actually wanted to play the cello,” McClain said. She admitted that it was too big and she didn’t want to walk with the large instrument on her back. For this reason, her mom convinced her to play the violin.

She first started playing the violin by taking a summer course before her fifth grade year. For her, learning how to play was difficult.

“It got easier, and then it got a lot harder,” she said. 

Learning was assisted by her school and private lessons teachers.

She first started by joining a summer program with North Middle School orchestra teacher Elizabeth Quinby.  Quinby later became her private lessons teacher. Afterward, she started taking and is still taking private lessons from Megan Karls, a member of the Great Falls Symphony.

Along with private lessons, McClain is involved in the Great Falls Youth Orchestra and the school’s Chamber Orchestra.

“I am a first violinist in the Youth Symphony, which I’ve been doing since I was a freshman,” she said. “I am the principal second of chamber orchestra right now.”

After eight years of playing, her favorite part is the way it feels when she plays.

“I like how much of the music you can actually feel,” she said. She likes the feeling of the resonance when she plays and the feeling of the strings under her fingertips. She also loves to play notes other than the “screaming” high ones.

“It’s fun when your violin can sing on those lower notes,” she said.

Not only does she like the feeling, but she also loves the sound of minor keys.

“I like playing music in minor keys — it sounds a lot more soulful,” she said. Recently, however, she has been trying to play more pieces in major keys.

Some of her favorite pieces include Gavotte (in Violin Suzuki Book 4) by Bach, and all of the music that she plays in the school’s Chamber Orchestra. She especially likes pieces by Shostakovich because that is her favorite composer.

With each piece of music, there normally comes a performance.

To prepare for performances–these include her church, school concerts, youth orchestra concerts, and master classes– she practices for one hour a day. She also avoids last-minute practice on the day of the concert because it can tire out your fingers and mess up your performance.

Despite her love for the instrument and all of the time and commitment she has put into performing, it doesn’t seem as if it will be a career for McClain.

“I think I’m going to keep it as a hobby. I’m definitely going to keep playing.”