Player Spotlight ~ Sarah Isberg, Magic & Music

Opus 554, “Totenberg” Guarneri del Gesù violin, 2005

Magic & Music“I wanted an instrument that would fill a large room without amplification, and would still have a lovely warm tone. I am very happy with my choice. It has been a pleasure to meet and talk with Doug about violin making and magic and many other things.”

I started studying piano when I was 14, having listened to my mother's playing all my life. I loved the piano and piano music, but was more serious about ski racing through high school and college. After college, my father gave me his Hohner button accordion, thinking I should have a portable instrument. Thus began my journey into the world of folk music.

I taught myself to play the accordion, and soon formed a contra dance band with a few friends in the Mount Washington Valley area. I continued to play the accordion for 20 years, meanwhile, eyeing the fiddle from afar. When one of my daughters was 4 years old, I started her on Suzuki violin, and found my chance to learn to play the fiddle at last!

After a fall of commuting 3 hours round trip to the nearest Suzuki teacher with a neighbor and her daughter, we decided to start a community music school, and import teachers to our town, and the Mountain Top Music Center was born.
I pursued Suzuki teacher training and began to teach for MTMC. I also played in the Mountain Top Community Orchestra.

Sarah Isberg's violin #554I had progressed from a $200 second-hand fiddle to a new violin made by a Montreal luthier, to a 7/8 size or "women's size" German violin I found in Stockholm, Sweden. But I was looking for a combination of a great sounding violin that would fit my small size (5 feet tall), and decided to pursue having one made for me. We were fortunate to have Eric and Carol Rosenblith join the board of MTMC, and through them, and the International Musical Arts Institute (IMAI), we met Douglas Cox doing a workshop at IMAI. When I was looking to upgrade my fiddle a few years later, Eric Rosenblith pointed me towards Doug. I tested several, found one I loved, and have been extremely happy with it ever since. My instrument is a slightly modified model of the "Totenberg" Guarneri violin, where the neck is set asymmetrically, making it easier for me to reach the fingerboard.

I perform Swedish folk, Celtic, and a little classical music as accompanist to my husband, Roger Isberg, a magician. Our show is called Magic and Music. We have performed together for several years, starting soon after he moved to the US in 2004. We are one of the few magician/musician duos, or magic acts with live music. It is great to see people's faces when we make our entrance, their fascination with the violin I'm playing as we walk in to the stage. When we performed once at a magic club in Stockholm, several people asked me afterwards if I was really playing!

I also play every week at an Irish session at May Kelly's Cottage in North Conway, NH. We have a great session, and I love hearing how my Cox fiddle fills out the sound of the other melody instruments, accordion, flute and tenor banjo. It is also beautiful on waltzes or slow airs. We have become regulars at the Catskills Irish Arts Week (CIAW), and have also attended music festivals in Sweden. I have studied with Liz Carroll, Martin Hayes, Matt Cranitch, Antoin MacGavin, and Swedish fiddlers Per Gudmundson (from Frifot), and Mikael Marin (from Vasen), all masters of the instrument and music in general, as well as the folk music they play.

I think I will always be a student of music, searching for better tone and expression, and enjoying sharing music with others. I love playing fiddle music, because it is different every time I play.

We live in Jackson, New Hampshire, in a field tucked in between the hills surrounding Jackson, and the Wildcat River. We have greenhouses and gardens, and sell our maple syrup, garlic and other veggies, and swedish cinnamon rolls at the Jackson Farmer's Market. We teach outdoor life in Sweden each year, where my husband started a school for outdoor life 30 years ago. We have published one book, Simple Life - “Friluftsliv”, and hope to write more. And we hope to keep honing and performing our magic and music.

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