PENINSULA PROFILE: The musician and her apprentice
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Kate Powers, 13, will play with her mentor, Mary Moon, in the Sequim Community Orchestra this Friday. -- Photo by Joe Smillie/Peninsula Daily News

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM –– Like so many kung fu movies, the history of student-teacher relationships is littered with times when apprentice and master compete on the same playing field.

Such is the case with Mary Moon, a Cornish College-trained music teacher with 30 years of experience, and her protege Kate Powers, a 13-year-old who is gaining acclaim for her skills with the bow.

“She has what it takes,” Moon said. “She has this God-given gift for playing and is willing to put in the blood, sweat and tears to become even better.”

Side by side, the student and teacher will duel in the first movement of Bach’s Double Violin Concerto in D minor at the Sequim Community Orchestra’s first concert of the season this coming Friday.

The 7 p.m. performance, to include the music of Mozart and Puccini, will take place at the Trinity United Methodist Church, 100 S. Blake Ave. Admission is free, while donations to the orchestra are welcome. Listeners are invited to linger afterward for refreshments and conversation with the orchestra players. For more information about the group’s activities, visit www.SequimCommunity

“It’s really fun to get to share the stage with her,” Kate said of Moon.

Fittingly, the duo also will play in the orchestra’s rendition of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.”

While their shared talents with the violin have brought them both to the Sequim stage, Moon and Kate got there in very different ways.

“I grew up in a family that was kind of like the Von Trapp family singers,” Moon said.

Amid her musical family, Moon began singing at age 4 and picked up her first violin at age 9. At 17, Moon was chosen to play as a gold medalist with the Seattle Symphony at the age of 17. She credited her father, a champion table tennis player, for instilling in her the competitive drive to become a great musician.

“He would never let me win,” Moon said of her father-daughter table tennis matches. “But that taught me to just keep at it so I could get better and better.”

She went on to study at the Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle — the oldest music conservatory on the West Coast — where she also took private vocal lessons from Marni Nixon, a singer whose voice was dubbed into Hollywood musicals.

Nixon was heard, for example, singing for Natalie Wood in “West Side Story,” for Audrey Hepburn in “My Fair Lady” and for Deborah Kerr in “The King and I.”

Moon has served as the co-concertmaster of the Port Angeles Symphony and now teaches private music lessons in Sequim.

Unlike Moon and her musical childhood, Kate’s home life was not surrounded by songs. The ninth of Gayle and Jeff Powers’ 11 children, Kate was the first to pick up an instrument.

“From the top down to Kate, there was no music,” Gayle Powers said of her brood.

While several members of the family enjoy drawing and domestic arts, Kate’s ears were all for music. From the first time she drew her bow across a violin, Kate knew just which strings to press.

“It just made sense,” she said of her instrument.

Often, that’s how it works, Moon said.

“You have to have the ear to pick out the notes,” Moon said, mocking the tentative creaks that are often emitted from a first-time violin player’s instrument.

“Some kids have it; some kids don’t. She has that ability.”

Couple that talent with a drive to learn just how her instrument works, and you get a special musician, Moon said.

“She reminds me a lot of me,” Moon said. “The way she just throws herself into the art with all her passion. That makes her a pretty special musician.”

Last month, Kate was named the top junior artist at the Port Angeles Symphony’s Young Artists Competition.

Kate plays second violin with the Port Angeles Symphony. At the same time, she is the youngest member of the Sequim Community Orchestra.

Kate also rosins up her bow as a member of an old-time fiddlers’ group, in which she enjoys the freedom to improvise in a less-structured setting.

“It’s more difficult to play classical music,” she said. “It’s a lot more formal.”

The Sequim Community Orchestra features more than 30 players, ranging from young Kate to the octogenarian members. They joined up simply for the love of the music.

Lilias Green, president of the orchestra, said many of the musicians brought out their instruments for the first time in years before coming to orchestra practice.

“It took some of them a little while to remember what they’re doing,” Green said. “But once everybody started playing, it came back.”

The orchestra formed one year ago.

Since last September, the players have practiced for two hours every Tuesday night at the James Center for the Performing Arts in Sequim. Anyone with an interest in developing their orchestral skills is welcome to join the rehearsals.

The conductor is Phil Morgan-Ellis, founder and director of the former North Olympic Youth Orchestra and a music teacher who has taught in the strings program in Port Angeles schools.

Morgan-Ellis said the Sequim Community Orchestra musicians have shown true commitment by putting in the time, week after week, to bring back their once-dormant musical skills.

“It’s great to hear them all kind of figuring it out together,” Morgan-Ellis said. “This is a really dedicated group.”

Last modified: February 16. 2013 6:12PM
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