A string and a prayer | SteamboatToday.com

A string and a prayer

Teacher who fled Katrina hosting violin show tonight

Mike Lawrence

— Five months ago today, Mary Anne Fairlie spent Christmas packing up her wind-ravaged home in New Orleans.

“We knew we had to leave,” Fairlie said about her family in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. She has two sons with husband, John. “Our jobs didn’t exist anymore.”

Less than a year after fleeing New Orleans a day before Katrina struck, in two cars loaded with her family and musical instruments, the resourceful woman has found a new job.

Now the music teacher at Lowell Whiteman Primary School in downtown Steamboat Springs, Mary Anne Fairlie will host the school’s annual Violin Showcase tonight at 6 p.m., featuring solo and ensemble violin performances from 60 students in kindergarten through eighth grade. John Fairlie will accompany performers on piano.

“We feel very, very lucky,” Mary Anne Fairlie said about the upheaval that brought her family to Steamboat. “We’re not going back to New Orleans — everything about this city is better for us.”

The Fairlie’s moved here in January, after Lowell Whiteman administrators hired Mary Anne Fairlie to fill the vacant music teacher position. She found the job on the Internet while staying with her family at the home of John Fairlie’s brother in Texas, north of Austin.

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The husband and wife play in the Steamboat Chamber Orchestra. Mary Anne plays the violin and John plays woodwind instruments including the bassoon and saxophone. Their two sons attend Steamboat Springs Middle School and Steamboat Springs High School.

They have found a new home.

“We figured if we were going to start over, we should do it in the most beautiful place in the world,” Mary Anne Fairlie said Monday at a rehearsal for tonight’s performance.

Every student at Lowell White–man Primary School takes music, and that means every student learns the violin.

“We do some other things in class, like singing, but they learn to play music through the violin,” Mary Anne Fairlie said, adding that next year the school hopes to add cello, viola and bass lessons.

Kindergarteners start off with simple tunes such as “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” she said, and some students can handle very challenging pieces by the time they reach eighth grade.

At Monday’s rehearsal, eighth-grader Wyatt Wilson played “Ashokan Farewell,” a haunting arrangement in the style of a Scottish lament.

For brothers Patrick Milne and Jonathan Milne, violin lessons give an opportunity for friendly sibling rivalry. Patrick, 10, practiced “Gavotte” on Monday, before 12-year-old Jonathan ran through a solo rehearsal of a Seitz concerto.

Jonathan diplomatically said which brother is the better violinist. “I’m farther along in the books, so I’m a little bit better,” Jonathan said. “But he’s catching up.”

Jonathan said he looks forward to live performances, such as tonight’s, more than rehearsals.

“I can show my skills and show people that I can play the violin really well,” Jonathan said.

— To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4203 or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com

What: Annual Violin Showcase by the Lowell Whiteman Primary School, featuring solo and ensemble violin performances from 60 students in kindergarten through eighth gradeWhen: 6 p.m. todayWhere: St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Ninth and Oak streets, adjacent to the schoolCall: Lowell Whiteman Primary at 879-8081 for more information