Since the first time she picked up a violin bow and struck the strings, Justin Lamb- Budge became mesmerized by the instrument. She was 6 then. Now 22 years old and the concertmaster of the Canton Symphony Orchestra, Lamb-Budge is on her way to becoming an orchestra star. Watch an orchestra, any orchestra, and a violin solo can draw you in like the aroma of ma’s homemade chocolate chip cookies wafting from the oven.
“It takes a specific skill set to play it,” Lamb-Budge said. “It’s like everyone’s handprint or DNA; everyone is different. People with longer arms will play it differently than those with shorter arms. It takes a certain type of intelligence and learning ability. A lot of it is muscle memory.”
When she first picked up the instrument, as with most beginners, it wasn’t a heavenly sound.
Lamb-Budge laughs at the memory now.
“It was a bad, screeching sound,” she said. “My parents were both very understanding. They got me with the right instructors early. My mom was musically inclined, but her training was mostly on the piano. They came to all the recitals and sat through the screeching music. But once they knew how important it was to me, they pushed me. Once they understood it was something I cared about, they kept me motivated.”
Two years after first playing, when she was 8, is when Lamb-Budge fell in love with the instrument and the beautiful, maybe even addictive, sound that is created when a trained violinist puts bow to strings.
“I had a moment where I realized how important it was to me and I couldn’t imagine my life without it,” Lamb-Budge said.
Growing up in the suburbs of Philadelphia made for fertile music grounds. Lamb-Budge, the daughter of two psychologists, completed her undergraduate work at the Curtis Institute of Music last fall, just down the street from one of the country’s best orchestras, the Philadelphia Orchestra. Then she had an audition in Cleveland last fall. Lamb-Budge is getting her master’s degree at the Cleveland Institute of Music. In Philadelphia, her violin instructor was Kimberly Fisher, who’s the first chair, second violin in Philly.
It’s hard to improve on that instruction.
Lamb-Budge did in Cleveland. Her instructor here is William Preucil, the concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra. The concertmaster is the top violinist, who plays solo passages and serves as the assistant to the conductor. Lamb-Budge is Canton’s concertmaster, and she’s the assistant concertmaster for the Akron Symphony.
“I’m spoiled,” she said. “I went to school down the street from the Philadelphia Orchestra and now I’m going to school down the street from the Cleveland Orchestra. Those are world-class orchestras.”
The Cleveland Orchestra recently was voted the best in the world by backtrack.com, an online classical event finder. Concertmasters for regional orchestras such as Canton’s can make about $35,000 a year.
Concertmasters of a top-rated orchestra such as Cleveland’s can make more than $500,000 a year, Lamb-Budge said. The base scale for a Cleveland Orchestra member is $122,512. She supplements her income between Canton and Akron with performances in Philadelphia. Tuition is more than $40,000 a year at the Cleveland Institute of Music.
There is a difference between making a living and doing what she loves, though. Just 22 years old, Lamb-Budge found her calling when she was a toddler.
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