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Q&A with Author Brendan Slocumb

The author of our One Book, One Community read, The Violin Conspiracy.

DECEMBER 1, 2023 – FEBRUARY 25, 2024
Join the movement to foster community through reading. One Book, One Community invites all readers in the Cook Memorial, Indian Trails, and Vernon Area library districts to read this year’s selection, participate in book discussions and related events, and hear from the author. ​Events are open to all, regardless of home library.

About the Book & Author

One Book, One Community Programs

The Violin Conspiracy reminds all of us that dreams are worth pursuing, no matter the obstacles in front of us. The struggle to follow your heart is always the same — and this novel inspires us to take the chance, make the leap, and dare to be better. This was a wonderful read.”

—Misty Copeland, Author and principal dancer, American Ballet Theatre

Q: Your bio and author’s note reveal that elements of Ray’s story parallel your own. What do you and Ray share? In what ways are you different?

A: Like Ray, I started playing violin very young; I was 9 years old. Nobody in my family really understood the attraction — nobody in the neighborhood was even remotely interested. In the beginning, playing was great — it was something different, and I loved it from the moment I picked up my first violin.

Throughout elementary school, junior high, and high school, my classmates didn’t understand what I saw in music, and they called me every name in the book, like Ray. Since my college was a school of music within a larger university, I was finally around more like-minded people, so on some level life became much easier. I differ from Ray in that he is much more adept at playing jazz. I’m terrible at it. I’m actually kind of jealous of him in that regard.

Q: Are there ways that writing a novel is like performing in a symphony or as a soloist?

A: Writing and performing are closely connected for me. I approach writing like a piece of music. Start with an overture that sets everything up. Next comes the introduction, middle section, climax, and finale. I outline everything and really focus in on each part like in a concerto or symphony. It’s second nature to me because of playing violin for so many years.

Q: Ray’s story involves a few key people and events that greatly affect his trajectory: a loving and supportive grandma, a caring college mentor, a significant gift. Is there a person or moment in your life that you recognize as life-changing?

A: My first teacher in college told me to quit because he thought my hands were too big to ever play violin in tune. My second teacher, Dr. Rachel Vetter Huang, really taught me how to play my instrument and to this day, I’m extremely grateful to her.

Has it changed my life? Absolutely. The violin allowed me to travel, fly for the first time, go to college, meet incredible people and help those in need — as well as the opportunity to express myself musically.

Q: Parts of The Violin Conspiracy are a pleasure to read: the peek behind the curtain of classical music competition, which will be new to many readers, and the “whodunnit” aspect of the story, for example. Other parts are difficult, but necessary on many levels. How did you approach bringing those voices together?

A: My goal was to tell a good story. It’s an honest account of the life of a Black violinist. I was given great advice, which was to write honestly. I believe the difficult sections to read reinforce the message that anything worth fighting for may be tough at times, but when you make it through, it will all be worthwhile.

Stradivarius violin © Brendan Slocumb

© David Bickley

Q: As a successful musician, teacher, and author, what advice do you have for young people who have a passion for the arts?

A: If you have a passion for the arts, always remember why you began to love it. Do your best and give one hundred percent all the time, not just when someone is watching.

Q: What do you hope readers take away from The Violin Conspiracy?

A: I really want people to do what they love because they love it. Never ever ever let someone tell you you can’t do something. If you love it, do it.

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