Many people visit the campus Quad weekly. Occasionally the sound of a fiddle can be heard across campus. But where is the music coming from?

James Trevarthan is a computer science graduate student and he began fiddling when he was only 9-years-old.

“There was this guy on PBS called André Rieu, and he was playing the violin,” Trevarthan said. “He played this tune called ‘Irish Washerwoman’ and I was like, that's really cool, I want to play that. And I didn't realize at the time that it took a lot of work to get to that point.”

Trevarthan began classes as soon as he could. He described pestering his teacher to teach him “Irish Washerwoman” but was told he “had to learn the notes first.”

Now, Trevarthan can play both the fiddle and the violin. Which are the same instrument, just played differently. He said that the way you move your wrists while playing makes all the difference. Notes are played differently as well. 

Now, Trevarthan can play multiple types of music. 

“So I started classical,” Trevarthan said. “I still occasionally play it. I play Irish, old-time or bluegrass some people call it. I was part of an orchestra and we would do stuff from Harry Potter, Star Wars and all sorts of things.”

Before going to college, Trevarthan struggled with what he wanted to study. 

“It was either physics or music,” Trevarthan said, “It’s been so long. I think I might have just chosen physics because I was afraid I wasn't gonna be able to sustain myself on music.”

While he chose science over music, he still believes that music plays a big role in his work, as well as all of STEM. 

“It's strange,” Trevarthan said. “A lot of engineers turn out to be musicians. I don't know if music rewires your brain-like music is all beats and counting and that's math.”

For his undergraduate, Trevarthan attended Eastern Illinois University where he studied physics with a specificity in aerospace engineering. After graduating, Trevarthan began working as a librarian, until parts of his job became automated.

“I was kind of like, ‘Oh, cool. Where do I go from here?’” Trevarthan said. “Then I was like, ‘Go to computer science because there's a lot of jobs in there and there's less likelihood that it will get automated away again.’”

Trevarthan ended up at SIUE where he is currently working on his master’s in computer science. He also continued his work within libraries as the Grad Assistant at Lovejoy Library.

Although he is not involved with the music department on campus, he combined his job and passion last semester when he organized a concert in the library during finals week, which he hopes to be able to do again this semester. 

At one time, Trevarthan hoped to start a “jam session” where different musicians would bring music to play so that others could learn the songs along with them.

“I think it's important to play an instrument or even enjoy music, because it just brings joy and you know, having more music around is never a bad thing,” Trevarthan said. 

Trevarthan first began fiddling on the Quad in the spring of 2022. as a way to gain more confidence.

“I used to be really scared of playing in public,” Trevarthan said. “So the only way to get over that fear was playing in public. And so I keep doing it because I still always have a little bit of nervousness.”

As he kept playing in the Quad, Trevarthan noticed that people liked it.

 “I'm just glad that I can bring a little bit of joy, that makes me happy,” Trevarthan said. “It's always cool when suddenly somebody just starts clapping. I'm like, ‘Oh, I didn't even realize that they sat down.’”

To reach more people Trevarthan prefers to play mid-day in between classes.

“I try to play when people are going to be crossing through because then they can hear it as they're walking to the next class,” Trevarthan said.

Trevarthan usually plays his favorite styles, old-time and Irish, while out in the Quad, but he plans to start playing jazz and swing. 

He also described playing the violin as a way for him to decompress, which was another reason he was worried about majoring in music for college.

 “I was worried that if I did it all the time, I would start hating it. I don't want to hate playing music,” Trevarthan said. 

As the weather gets warmer, Trevarthan hopes to continue playing in the Quad until he graduates in the fall semester of 2023. 

“Whenever I feel sad or anything, music has just carried me through my life. It's like a foundation,” Trevarthan said.

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