The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb
A page-turning mystery, a prestigious international competition, and racism meet in the world of classical music in The Violin Conspiracy.
Genre/Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Mystery, Diverse Read, African-American Literature, Classical Music, “Own Voices”
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My Summary of The Violin Conspiracy:
A boy and his violin.
Young Ray loves violin and dreams of becoming a professional musician. He plays a rented instrument at school and his family cannot afford private lessons or to purchase a violin for Ray. Mom wants him to get a real job so that he can contribute to the family expenses. The only person who really encourages and supports him in his love for music is his grandmother. and she gives Ray his great-grandfather’s violin (fiddle) With his very own violin, Ray begins to accept side gigs with a string quartet and enter contests. From a young age, he faces racism and prejudice in the musical community. However, he is dedicated to classical music and his rigorous practice schedule. In college, he becomes well known when he discovers that his old violin is actually a valuable Stradivarious.
In the weeks before his biggest competition, the International Tchaikovsky Competition (the Olympics of classical music), Ray’s precious violin is stolen. He also facec a few lawsuits from his family and others who claim rights to his valuable instrument. Will he recover his violin in time to compete internationally? Can he win the lawsuits and retain rights to the violin? Will the mystery of who stole the violin be solved?
Who have you encouraged today?
As we follow one young man and his passion for classical music, we are witness to the racism and prejudice he endures. We are insulted alongside Ray and his story feels personal. The author in his notes, reveals that the racism and many of the events that Ray faced happened to the author in real life. These first-hand experiences lend authenticity and credibility to Ray’s story. I definitely appreciate this “own voices” story.
The author points out in the story and in his notes the under-representation of Blacks in Classical Music. This hadn’t occurred to me before reading the story….I’m not closely connected (or connected at all) in the world of music. I’m interested to discuss this with my musical friends.
“1.8 percent of musicians performing in classical symphonies are Black; 12 percent are people of color.”
The Violin Conspiracy is as much about a young Black man’s journey with classical music, his participation in the international competition, and racism as it is about the missing violin. The first pages of the story drop us right into the action on the day the violin is stolen. The next chapter and most of the remainder of the book fill us in on Ray’s backstory including his love for violin and classical music, the racism and prejudice he experienced, and his professional career. Near the end of the story we return to the competition, the mystery of the violin, and the resolution. Even though I had an idea of who stole the violin early on, I was engaged until the end.
One especially poignant theme explores how important it is to have people who believe in you and support you in your desire to chase your dream. In Ray’s case, his grandmother always encouraged and supported his musical ability even as the rest of the family was dismissive. Later, one teacher took a special interest in him and provided expertise, motivation, and professional guidance for performances and competitions. These two individuals were the difference makers in his life. Other thoughtful themes include perseverance, determination, pursuing a dream, taking risks, working hard, discipline, dedication, respect, racism/prejudice, family drama, and self-control.
“We’re here for a reason…To throw little torches out to lead people through the dark.”
Music lovers might want to create a playlist as they read! Here’s one I found!
Recommending The Violin Conspiracy
I’m enthusiastically recommending The Violin Conspiracy for fans of classical music, for readers who are looking for diverse reads from “own voices” authors, for those who love unputdownable intrigue, and for bookclubs who enjoy discussable topics. (additional recommendations for book club here)
If you are an “own voices” reviewer, please leave a link to your review in comments.
Content Consideration: racism and prejudice
My Rating: 4.5 Stars
Meet the Author of The Violin Conspiracy, Brendan Slocumb
Brendan Nicholaus Slocumb was born in Yuba City, California and was raised in Fayetteville, North Carolina. He is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a degree in music education, concentrations on Violin and Viola. While at UNCG, Brendan was the concertmaster for the University Symphony orchestra and served as the principal violist. He performed with numerous small chamber ensembles, including flute and clarinet choirs, and in the BESK string quartet.
As a musician, Brendan has performed on violin with the Washington Metropolitan Symphony, the McLean Symphony, the Prince George’s Philharmonic, and the Alexandria Symphony. He currently serves as the concertmaster for the NOVA- Symphony Orchestra. Brendan has been a frequent adjudicator and guest conductor for several district and regional orchestras throughout North Carolina and Virginia, and he also performs chamber music with members of the Annandale symphony. He maintains a private music studio teaching lessons to students on violin, guitar and piano.
Brendan is the founder of the nonprofit organization, Hands Across the Sea, based in the Philippines. After touring the Philippines with the Northern Virginia Chamber Ensemble and witnessing firsthand the conditions that many of the young music students and their families endure, Brendan founded the Hands Across the Sea to offer support to the Berea School of the Arts in Manila, by providing instruments, lessons, and monetary support. The organization also supplements school supplies and dental and medical assistance.
In his spare time, Brendan enjoys writing, exercising, collecting comic books and action figures, and performing with his rock band, Geppetto’s Wüd.
Is this one on your TBR or have you read it?
Do you love classical music?
Do you have a favorite composer?
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