Aaron Meyer ’95, Concert Rock Violinist
“We’re in uncharted territory,” says violinist Aaron Meyer of the musical style that he has created with guitarist and music partner Bill Lamb ’88. “Record stores don’t know where to put our CDs because we’ve created our own thing.”
Doing his own thing is what Meyer is all about. Although he started on a strictly classical path, he has blazed a trail that is uniquely his own, blending classical roots with rock influences in a style he describes as “concert rock violin.”
Meyer decided to study violin at age 5, after watching one of his father’s violin students—an 11-year-old girl—perform with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Meyer’s father, Julian, is one of the top violin teachers on the East Coast. After the performance, the elder Meyer rewarded the student with a cake shaped like a violin. “I wanted that cake,” says the younger Meyer, “so I made up my mind that, by the time I was 11, I would perform with the orchestra too.” Meyer practiced three hours a day for six years, and at age 11, he took the stage as a featured soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra. It was the first in what he considers the top three highlights of his career to date.
In college, Meyer enrolled at Indiana University as a performance violin major, but he found the program too strict and regimented for his style. Rather than conform, he gave up the violin entirely and changed his major to math. When he realized that wasn’t the right path either, he went home to Philadelphia to research other schools. “That’s when I found Lewis & Clark and fell in love,” says Meyer. “It had the right vibe. So I plunged westward.”
Meyer enrolled as a natural sciences major and gave himself time to explore his nonmusical interests. “I like to march to my own beat,” says Meyer. “Lewis & Clark was the perfect place for me—I took classes all over the map.” After graduation, Meyer continued to explore life outside of music, spending a year traveling throughout southeast Asia. By the time he returned to Oregon, refreshed and inspired, he was ready to get to work.
Because the violin was what he knew best, Meyer began to play again. Although he hadn’t touched a violin in five years, he says “the fundamentals were in my blood.” Almost immediately, he was offered the opportunity to join the eclectic group Pink Martini. The group’s founder, pianist Thomas Lauderdale, opened Meyer’s eyes to the possibility that he could combine classical music with other kinds of music to create something completely new. “Suddenly,” says Meyer, “I got very excited about music again.”
Doors began to open. After a year with Pink Martini, Meyer met guitarist Bill Lamb through pianist Michael Allen Harrison, and the trio performed together for three years. When the director of Oregon Ballet Theatre invited Meyer to compose a work for the dance company in 1999, Meyer asked Lamb to collaborate with him. “That launched us,” he says.
Although he hadn’t touched a violin in five years, he says “the fundamentals were in my blood.” Almost immediately, he was offered the opportunity to join the eclectic group Pink Martini.
Meyer’s own personal style evolved out of that initial writing experience with Lamb. “Aaron would come in with a classical lick,” says Lamb, “and we would say, let’s do something to it that nobody else has done.” As an experienced performer, recording artist, and writer who has worked with Elton John, Kenny Rogers, Johnny Mathis, and many other top artists, Lamb brought another musical perspective to the collaboration. “Bill sets a groove, and I lock into that,” says Meyer. “He pushes me to go places I haven’t gone before.”
Since then, Meyer and Lamb have formed a 10-piece band, released four CDs, and produced three full-scale musical/theatrical/ dance productions together. “We really click,” says Meyer.
In 2001, Meyer had the great honor to perform an original composition for the Dalai Lama, an experience that he considers the second in his top three career highlights. The third will happen later in 2004: Twenty years after his performance with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Meyer will once again take the stage with a major symphony—this time, the Oregon Symphony. “It’s a major leap,” says Meyer. “Our whole band will be there for a full evening of classical crossover.” Needless to say, it won’t be the orchestral style of his father’s generation. “It’s our music,” says Meyer, “on our own terms, without compromise. And we love it.”