“When we played together, he never repeated himself. I don’t think he could.” –Yehudi Menuhin on Stephane Grappelli

Yehudi Menuhin had great respect for Stephane Grappelli, a jazz violinist whose musical upbringing was far from Yehudi’s own formal education. According to Paul Balmer’s biography of Stephane, the latter had grown up with “no training in music but with common-sense guile.” Stephane had a father who would scrounge around to find his talented son a violin and a book of solfege. Before the violin, he had put Stephane into a dance program with Isadora Duncan before he left to fight in World War I.  Stephane’s father reached out to his aristic, musical friends to guide his young son through the first parts of learning the arts. In addition to having a supportive father, Stephane learned to be scrappy. On his first violin lessons:

“I go to the street and I watched the buskers. I watched where he put his hands. That was my first teacher.”

Stephane was a quick study, perhaps as a result of having to adapt quickly to different situations. Along with his musical talent, Stephane also had a way with people:

“Presented with the intriguing instrument Stephane fumbled for a few days with its mysteries and then made a resourceful move: There were many musicians then in cafes, and I asked one to help me with tuning the violin, I think he was intrigued by this precocious child and he tuned it for me.”

p.33 in a biography by Paul Balmer


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