Aug 29, 2018–While perusing posts online, I came across a discussion where a master violinist effused that she just “can’t wait to perform.”
This surprised and intrigued me, as I know many musicians who feel intense pressure every time they step into the spotlight. This seems especially true in the world of classical music, where you not only have a highly discriminating audience in front of you, but often 80 top-notch classical musicians behind you.
But none of that bothers Dominika Dancewicz. The internationally-recognized violinist truly loves to perform. So I called her to find out how that came to be. I admit I was sort of pleased when she told me that was not always so.
“When I was younger and still in school, I was terrified too,” she admitted during a phone call. “We all have to go through it.”
She well understands the causes of fear. Growing up to become a classical musician, she was trained to be “absolutely perfect.” Raised in Poland, she took her basic education in a Russian school, which she remembers as “unforgiving.”
“There was no smiling,” she said. “It was all work.”
From an early age she remembers being locked in a practice room for hours. Her parents, who were also classical musicians, reinforced the strict regimen. When she was only 7 years old, and her brother 4, they were sometimes left at home with their only task to practice.
While it made her an exquisite violinist, it was only when she graduated that she discovered the passion and joy of playing.
“It has something to do to with spreading your wings, when you don’t have anyone to control you anymore, or anybody to judge you any more.”
Of course, she still gets professional reviews, and is judged by every audience who pays to come listen to her play. But now, it is on her terms.
“As a performing artist, you enjoy much more freedom,” she explained. “Outside of school, playing with friends for the pure pleasure and joy of music, that fear disappears.”
That doesn’t mean she is perfect. In fact, getting rid of the need for perfection frees her to be more passionate.
“If you miss a note or not, if generally you know what you are doing, and if you have the passion and enthusiasm and vision and story to back it, I don’t know of an audience that will not be moved by your performance. We underestimate people’s capacity to forgive, to be really open to the message and the feeling, and to actually receive the beauty we are sharing with them.
Perhaps part of Dominika’s enthusiasm for performing is that she saw how it affected life at a profound level. During her youth, Poland was behind the Iron Curtain. The only people who could travel freely were musicians, such as her father.
“He told me if you practice, practice, practice, you will be able to get out of here.”
So she did. She spent hours and hours practicing, even when she saw her peers running and playing.
“I pushed through it because at the top of my head was that deeper sense of freedom that only artists could achieve,” she said. “Because of the strange situation we were in, maybe that is why we squeezed in more joy.”
That power of music is not limited to former Soviet satellites. Dominika noted the role music played in U.S. history, such as during the civil rights movement.
“Music is such a powerful tool for many reasons,” she said. “Because it is so primal. It has the ability to raise people’s spirits, to move them to fight, to move them to resist. There is so much about music that is really powerful, that it can almost be dangerous. I’m not surprised they were banning certain songs because of truths they were trying to convey.”
The truths she will be conveying during her Sept 1 concert in Cave Without A Name won’t be of a political nature, but should be just as moving. With piano accompanist Donald Doucet, the program will be wide and varied. It will include pieces by Clara Schumann, whose composing career was eclipsed by her husband Robert Schumann and the prevailing attitudes in the mid-19th century.
“As a housewife in the 1850s, in her music there is so much sadness, anger, and even death,” Dominika said. “She is speaking through the ages and conveying those emotions. It is so fascinating to me. If you look at music as having a conversation with these composers, it gives you an insight into what kind of character they are. It is fascinating that you can look into their brains even though they have been dead for 300 years.”
Dominika has performed in the Cave before with the Axiom Quartet. Working as part of a duo gives her more of the freedom she loves.
“It’s not that one is better than the other,” she said. “In a quartet, you have four stringed instruments, so it is the quality of the blend you try to get. In a duo you have much more freedom. You can be both more flexible and more passionate. It is very interesting to switch between the two groups.”
With all the places she has performed around the world–including annual trips to Poland and just finishing a three-week tour of China–she calls playing in the Cave “one of the greatest adventures.”
“To be able to play music in a cave is such a treat,” she said. “It helps to explore the potential of the instruments on a different level. That type of acoustics is just not possible to produce anywhere else.”
The program will be eclectic, to say the least. In addition to pieces by women composers, they will perform ragtime, romantic sonatas, classical, jazz, Lennon-McCartney, and Phantom of the Opera–a favorite of the Cave’s owner, Tom Summers.
“There will be a huge variety,” she said. “The audience is going to be absolutely blown away by what a violin and piano duo can do. It is very exciting to perform this program and we can’t wait to see you all in the beautiful cave.”
And she means it.
The Dancewicz-Doucet Duo perform in Boerne’s Cave Without A Name on Saturday, September 1, 2018, 7:30 PM. Tickets at www.CaveWithoutAName.com – $30; At the Door – $35