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No Offseason Fiddling Around For Symphony Player Aimee Toomes

The San Antonio Symphony’s season is done and won’t start until September. So what are all those musicians doing with their time?  I found out at least one of them isn't exactly kicking back for the summer. Aimee Toomes, who plays violin in the symphony, was one of those kids who picked up an instrument early.

“I started playing violin when I was a fourth grader in public school, and 20 something years later I’m a violinist with the San Antonio Symphony,” she said.

She’s no slouch when it comes to how she learned her trade.

"I went to Peabody Conservatory for my undergraduate, Rice University for my masters, and did a four-year fellowship with the New World Symphony at Miami Beach,” she said.

I noted to her that the symphony’s last performance was in June, the next in September, then asked what she does with that time.

“Many of us play in summer music festivals all around the country," said Toomes. "Some people stay home and teach and have other chamber groups that they play with. My gig takes me to the Colorado Music Festival here in Boulder, Colorado, which is where I am right now.”

Clearly her time off isn’t really time off. She also gives private lessons to young violinists. You may wonder: Does she do that from Boulder?

“I teach them through Skype or Facetime," Toomes explained. "They have full lessons like they would at home. The only difference is that they are quite a few miles away.”

Skype is a software to be used in this way: The student sets up a computer screen with a camera, and they play violin. Toomes watches it all on her computer in Boulder, and is able to comment, or even illustrate on the violin using the camera on her computer.

"That’s exactly right," Toomes said. "Parents are listening and they’re helping their students practice during the week."

Her students are in San Antonio, but also all the way to Pueblo, Mexico. And in the summer, all get lessons on Skype.

"I think one of the most important things is that we’re seeing each other smile and working through the difficult parts of whatever we’re working on at the time,” said Toomes.

The future has arrived for symphony musicians.

Jack Morgan can be reached at jack@tpr.org and on Twitter at @JackMorganii