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Brook Wallace

A Real Strad
By Paul D. Wallace of Fort Worth, Texas

Here's how it happened:

Brook Wallace was playing with her family at the annual Texas Independence Day Gala in the Fort Worth Stockyards when she received a message that Mr. Bill Davis wanted to meet her.  The event is a fundraiser for the Cowtown Opry, a charitable historical organization, located in the Fort Worth Stockyards, that promotes and preserves the cowboy music and culture that is unique to Fort Worth.  Mr. Davis' company, Davoil, had purchased a table at the event, and he was impressed by Brook's fiddling.  When he learned that she was both the Jr. National Fiddling Champion and the Jr. World Champion, he asked Mrs. Jean Marlo to introduce them.

When Brook finished playing, she went over to Mr. Davis' table to meet him. He congratulated her on her achievements and said that he had a special treat for her in his office if she could come by on Monday morning.  Her Dad, Paul Wallace, asked him if he wanted her to bring her fiddle.  He said to bring it and to be sure to bring her bow.  She went home that night wondering what he had in store.

On Monday morning, Brook and Paul went to the Davoil offices in Fort Worth. Mr. Davis greeted them and gathered all of the office personnel in the reception area.  First, he asked Brook to play something on her fiddle to show the people what she could do.  With her Dad's guitar accompaniment, she played Sally Johnson for the crowd of about 30 people.  "Now," said Mr. Davis, "I would like for you to play a few tunes on my fiddle."  Mr. Davis then opened the violin case, and Brook stood with her mouth dropped open looking at the "Davis" Stradivarius.

This is a violin that Mr. Davis acquired over 20 years ago and is one of the most valuable of all Stradivarius violins.  The Davis Strad, crafted in 1710 and worth approximately $4.5 million, is generally on loan to the concertmaster of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra.  For over two decades, the use of the Davis Strad has been touted by the Fort Worth Symphony as a major perk to the concertmaster in their attempts to attract superior musicians.

Brook picked up the violin and began to tune it.  Her Dad was probably a little more nervous than she, realizing that this little girl was holding a breakable piece of wood worth four and a half million dollars in her hands. Nervously, she pulled her bow across the strings and played a couple of notes.  Mr. Davis announced that this would be a special treat for the instrument as well as for Brook because he didn't believe that "fiddle" music had ever been played on this instrument in its 300 year life.  Brook said something about not babying it because it was meant to be played.

She then cut loose playing Sally Goodin - a Texas Style fiddle hoedown.  The next tune that she played was a beautiful waltz entitled Velvet's Waltz.  She continued to play other hoedowns, waltzes, swing tunes and rags on the Strad for about an hour.  Each tune seemed to get better and better as she got used to the instrument's personality and became more accustomed to playing it.

Mr. Davis enjoyed the music and stated that Brook made the Strad sound the happiest of any who had played it.  As she was leaving, Mr. Davis told Brook that if she wanted to borrow his fiddle to make a recording to let him know - she will probably take him up on this offer!

Just to see or hold a genuine Stradivarius is merely a dream for many musicians, so it was definitely a special opportunity for this 13 year old fiddler that she will remember for the rest of her life.  And yes, a hoedown sounds really good when played on a real Strad.

Tuesday, March 05, 2002

Janet McBride

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