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YOUNG FIDDLERS TO SIZZLE THE STRINGS AT T.O. GALLERY.

Byline: Patricia Hesselbach Special to the Daily News

Bows will blaze and fingers fly as young musicians present festive fiddle music at the Thousand Oaks Community Gallery on Sunday.

Performing traditional American folk, swing jazz, bluegrass and Irish music, the artists will display talents developed under the instruction of Phil Salazar, a fiddler who began as a young violinist performing classical music.

``I tried it and I just loved it from the first lesson,'' said Megan Shirley of Westlake Village.

The 14-year-old took up fiddle playing a year ago. She had been studying the violin from a more classical technical approach since the age of 6.

``When I can play `Orange Blossom Special' and `The Devil Went Down to Georgia,' my mom will buy me an electric fiddle,'' said an excited Megan. ``I'm working on `Orange Blossom Special' now.''

Megan has worked on her rendition of ``Kansas City Kitty'' for Sunday's performance.

``I love playing fast songs. It just makes me happy,'' said 13-year-old Stephanie Wainwood of Newbury Park.

Stephanie has worked up two numbers in the bluegrass vein for her part of the program.

``You never know,'' said 12-year-old Debbie Baldwin of Ventura, when asked whether she sees fiddling in her career plans.

Debbie said she enjoys all styles of music and that what she chooses to play depends upon her mood at the time.

``If you play it right, I think classical music sounds better,'' she said. ``But fiddle music is more fun to play.''

Thirteen-year-old Nicky Baltrushes of Malibu said she often catches herself mistakenly holding the violin in fiddle position and vice versa. She added that she enjoys the improvisational aspects of fiddle playing.

``It's fun to do all the trills and just work it all out,'' she said. ``In classical music, you have to play every note just perfect.''

Nicky has polished a three-song medley with variations and a ditty titled ``Dill Pickle Rag'' for the Community Gallery performance.

All four fiddlers credit their instructor, in part, for making fiddling so much fun.

``It's really fun to play with Phil,'' Debbie said.

``He makes it so fun that I want to practice for him and do well,'' Megan said. ``Sometimes he accompanies me on the guitar.''

Perhaps it is Salazar's own joy of music that is reflected in the efforts of his stable of students.

``I hated playing when I was a kid,'' he confessed.

Son of orchestra conductor Frank Salazar, he began playing at an early age. Salazar performed the classics in student orchestra sessions and later with the Ventura County Symphony. But it was rock 'n' roll that sparked his passion for music and rekindled his interest in the violin.

Salazar refers to his music making as a ``professional hobby.'' He enjoys sitting in with country, rock, Cajun, jazz and bluegrass bands.

A studio musician and touring performer, Salazar has played with Chris Hillman, Doc Watson, David Grisman, John McEuen, Mark O'Connor and a host of others. He has recorded with a number of notable artists. The short list includes Snuffy Walden, Bill Brysen, Herb Peterson, Zacas Creek, The Acousticats, Paul Sanchez and the Rincon Ramblers.

Salazar will be heard along with his students on the Sunday afternoon program. A reception and opportunity to speak with the artists will follow the performance.

``The key to success was trying to find out how to make a living out of it,'' chuckled Salazar, who has fiddled for three of the top Southern California theme parks and for weddings and special events.

Salazar's casual attitude, flexibility and musical reputation seem to precede him wherever he travels.

The Showcase Concert of fiddlers will be at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Thousand Oaks Community Gallery, next to the Newbury Park Branch Library at Borchard Road and Michael Drive. The free concert is presented by the Arts Council of the Conejo Valley. Music lovers also will have a chance to view the city's annual Fine Art & Photography Show, on display at the gallery. Call (805) 498-4390.

CAPTION(S):

2 Photos

Photo: (1--color in SIMI edition only) Fiddle aficionado Phil Salazar, left, gives student Raymond Crispin some expert instruction during his lesson at Heck Music in Ventura.

(2) Salazar gets in some practice before Sunday's performance at the Thousand Oaks Community Gallery.

Tina Gerson/Daily News
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Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 24, 1997
Words:717
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