In his own words: Thomas Gordon and bringing classical music to the stage

Classical music is always seen as stuffy and a privileged class activity. Thomas Gordon challenges this idea by giving violin music a modern twist. We speak to him about his love and journey with music.

How did you start playing the violin? 

It started a few years ago when my aunt gave me a violin. She couldn’t play it and I didnt have a tutor in the beginning. But I was inspired to play it so much that I started teaching myself. I was playing the piano already,so it wasnt that much of a challenge to learn to play the violin.My Dad saw the passion I had for it and he got me a teacher. Before I knew it I was playing for the Cape Town Philharmonic, playing at church and at gigs. It was really rapid at how it all went. 

Where did the idea to do one piece of music per day for 100 days come from? 

I was thinking about my career and what path to choose going forward. I don’t have my matric and it’s hard to find work. I hadn’t played for five or six years so it was taking me so much more time to get on a great playing level again. My cousin kept motivating me to keep trying and then the pandemic hit, so I was all over the place. He told me to either re-write matric, pursue the violin or get a job. I took a chance with music so now I am getting recognised and seen by the media like etc news and the Daily Vox to be profiled. The Mother City Orchestra reached out to play for them. It’s only been a month and a half after not playing for five years, has been a sign that it is all meant to be. 

Classical music is “stuffy”, how are you challenging that? 

You know this very idea of classical music pushed me away from the violin. Many people see it as stiff and boring, but it’s not. I went with the attitude around me that I wouldn’t be able to have a career with the violin. My cousin wasn’t around to motivate me and he pushed me back into it. He is my rock and main motivator. I got back into it and I want to show the world that it is not something out of reach. I do the contemporary songs because they are a bit easier than the old-school classical ones, but also people can relate to it easier. In that way they hear their favourite rock and pop songs on a violin, and are pleasantly surprised. I wanted to do RnB and mix in classical music too as I improved and stepped up my playing. Once I started watching the videos it reminded me that I am confident enough and capable of playing all types of genres. It led to feeling comfortable playing the classical pieces. I took baby steps and am here now. 

I am an artist and I have dreams that I want to accomplish. I want to ensure I reach more people with my music. I believe my violin has a pesona of itself. It is a character on its own outside of me. The violin is the artist,and I am the custodian. I feel I need to travel and play in places like the United States and Italy. We need more artists’ exchanges because Africa has so much to teach the world. There is a bigger world out there. I would come back home and impart those experiences and what  I have learnt.You need to remember where you come from, and be proud of yourself and origins. I feel as South Africans we are so unique in our talents,and we need to keep honing those skills. I am a violin player from Mitchell’s Plain, Cape Town and am proud of my passion. 

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