A bride floats down an aisle on her big day, a beautiful picture in pure white, while a violinist plays her strings melting attendees' hearts. Courtney Vargo has played the violin for years and has established a reputation as the Erie Violinist through word of mouth and positive feedback.
She started playing the violin at five years old, taking both private and group lessons. She participated in two local junior orchestras from 1985 to 1995, and even won first place in the Erie Festival of the Arts Junior Music Competition in 1992. During high school, she took a break from the violin before picking it back up years later.
Courtney holds a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Slippery Rock University and a Master’s degree in Administration of Justice from Mercyhurst University. She works full-time at Voices for Independence and plays the violin for weddings on the weekends. Her side business was born when she played at a friend’s wedding and two more requests came.
“Playing weddings is extremely rewarding but requires a lot of behind the scenes work to make sure everyone has the day of their dreams,” she says. “I truly care and work hard to provide the best quality service I can to each couple. It’s important to note that playing the violin is a skill acquired with years of practice, and playing weddings requires specific knowledge in order to make sure everything goes smoothly.”
I had the privilege of talking with Courtney and learning about what it really takes to play the violin. Keep reading to find out more:
What drove you to pursue the violin enough to create a side business out of it?
It started when I played for a friend’s wedding. Two people approached me after that, and it grew from there since there was definitely a need for it in the local area. It was a unique opportunity that started from nothing, and I was excited to develop a local small business. I was encouraged to keep building it as more and more people approached me, and more referrals came with the positive feedback.
How did you establish your reputation?
Word of mouth via clients and vendor referrals helped me make connections within the wedding community. I created a Facebook page, which helped spread the word further, and as the positive feedback grew, so did my business and my desire to keep at it.
Does it feel like a new experience every time you play at a wedding, or do they tend to flow together?
It does feel like a new experience every time. Every couple, and especially every bride, has their own vision for the venue, colors, bridesmaid dresses, etc. It’s a different feel every time. I don’t compare them in terms of one being better than the other, but I do notice differences in the setup and details.
What is the most rewarding part of playing for weddings?
The fact that it’s one of the most important days, if not the most important day, in the lives of the couple, and the fact that they invite me to be a part of it, makes me feel very special.
What are some of the most popular song requests?
A lot of people want the traditional Pachebel’s Cannon in D. One of the most popular contemporary songs people request is A Thousand Years by Christina Perri. Other popular contemporary songs include Can’t Help Falling in Love by Elvis Presley, and All You Need is Love by the Beatles. I’ve even had people request the Game of Thrones theme and some Metallica music.
Do you every write your own songs?
I did write some music as a child, but I haven’t done so recently. Most people prefer contemporary music that they hear on the radio for their weddings, and I have a list of songs for them to choose from.
Do you always play solo, or do you ever perform with a band?
Ninety-nine percent of the time I play solo. I have played with a pianist before, but I prefer playing solo. Weddings usually fall on weekends and I work full-time. Additional practice time is required when working with someone else, and it’s often hard to find the time to do that with my busy schedule.
What are some misconceptions people have about playing the violin?
The level of skill involved. I have played for years and it takes a lot of time and dedication. I don’t think people realize about how much dedication goes into it. It’s a lot of work and practice behind the scenes, not a show up that day kind of thing.
Describe your headspace when you play the violin.
I have a different headspace when I practice versus when I am playing for the big day. When practicing, I am focused on making sure I am in tune and accurate. It’s a lot of repeat, repeat, repeat.
When playing for weddings, I am focused on playing it through and making sure I am prepared to adjust as needed. Things don’t always go as planned, so I need to be ready to improvise and accommodate on the spot.
Do you play any other instruments? Would you like to learn?
I do not. I would like to learn how to play the piano, so that is in my plans for the future.
Erin Maloney recently obtained her Associate’s degree in Business Administration Marketing & Management from Fortis Institute. She is a poet and a writer who is passionate about art and helping it reach all who can be touched by it. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.