Notes from the Train by Alice Hamlet | September 17, 2018
The aftermath of this past weekend’s Hurricane Florence in the Carolinas is a stark reminder of the devastation here in New Jersey six years ago from Sandy—in too many ways to count, not in the least the disruption of commuter train service in and out of New York. The Gladstone line was out for months—a dark time. The innovation involved in getting to and from work for thousands was pretty remarkable. And they say creativity is dead!
Not a stranger perhaps to tropical storms is Performing Arts School faculty member James Keene. Growing up in a small town on the southern coast of Puerto Rico called Patillas, James tried a lot of different instruments in his youth. At the time, each municipality in Puerto Rico had a band that lent instruments to local kids for free which allowed him to experiment with the flute, clarinet, saxophone, and trumpet before receiving a violin and sticking with it.
James attended Rutgers University, majoring in Violin Performance and German, before pursuing a Master of Music degree from the San Francisco Conservatory. He started teaching both violin and viola at the age of 19 and works with students of all ages.
Says James, “When dealing with a craft such as violin or viola playing, the main communication of ideas and concepts is through the private teacher-student relationship. In order to continue the unbroken teaching chain and pass on the ideas and discoveries of teachers and theirs in the past, it is almost the moral obligation of artists to teach. I derive great satisfaction from passing on the amazing concepts and ideas of my illustrious former teachers.”
In addition to teaching, James can be heard performing with the New Haven Symphony in Connecticut, the New Brunswick Chamber Orchestra in central New Jersey, and engaging in frequent solo and chamber performances throughout New Jersey, California, Vermont, and New York City.
Favorite food: The most difficult question! It can be hard for me to resist a good burger from Trap Rock here in Berkeley Heights after work.
Listening to these days: Whatever it is I am working on for violin or viola. In addition to that, I am very much a fan of indie and ambient music.
Final Thoughts: I always tell my students to have another passion besides playing the violin or viola. Something that will relax them and allow them to perform better in school and musically once they return from it. For me that stress-relieving, performance-enhancing activity is running: it allows me to approach my instrument with a clear head. But the activity could be anything! Visual art, cycling, scrapbooking, whatever allows you to express yourself and de-stress!
When not commuting, Alice Hamlet is the Director of Marketing at the Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts and is also on the faculty of the Performing Arts School, teaching cello and music theory.