Music: Creative Strings Festival

From the 06/23/2010 edition

Classical music can be, for lack of a better word, kinda stuffy. But not if Christian Howes has anything to say about it.

The esteemed jazz violinist hosts his seventh-annual Creative Strings Festival next Monday through Saturday, aimed at helping violinists, cellists and the like learn to improvise and unlock their creative potential.

Howes recruited 12 top innovators in his field as mentors for 25 adults from around the world and a handful of Columbus kids aiming to expand their musical palettes. The fruits of their labor will be on display at public performances throughout the week.

They'll rehearse together in boot camp-style sessions then perform around town at venues like Dick's Den, the North Market, Espresso Yourself and the new McConnell Performing Arts Center - 28 shows in all.

The goal will be to inspire the musicians to pursue new directions outside the confines of tradition.

"Rock guitar players, the first day they're improvising," Howes said.

Classical players, on the other hand, are trained never to deviate from the notes on the staff. Howes wants to blow open those boundaries and help players "get off the page" through hands-on experience.

The Columbus native and Berklee professor built his career by playing a wide range of styles with countless collaborators. He's sending his Creative Strings students on the same path; they'll jam with folk songwriter Jason Quicksall Monday at Rumba Cafe and jazz titans Eric Augis and Pete Mills Tuesday at Park Street Tavern.

When it's all over, Howes hopes they'll be confident to branch out into their communities and collaborate across genres - a significant hurdle.

As daunting as classical music can seem for the uninitiated, he said, "It's just as scary for a classical musician to come into an indie-rock band."