Westfield, NY Newspaper Article

   Westfield Violinist Gaskill: Short on Words, But Extensive on Talent

by Susan M. Dougherty

Thursday, May 6, 2004
The Westfield Leader and The Scotch Plains – Fanwood TIMES A W

Where does a virtuoso go after having studied at Julliard, having been the Concertmaster at the American Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall, and having performed violin at Lincoln Center for ten years with the Joffrey Ballet and Musica Sacrs?Jim with Violin Student

If you are James Gaskill, you move to Westfield, and become a master teacher of the violin and viola, sharing your passion for music and the instrument to scores of students.

His students have included the Concertmasters of the New Jersey Youth Orchestra, the Newark Youth Symphony and students in the New Jersey Youth Symphony.

“I have had some extraordinary students,” he told The Westfield Leader and The Scotch Plains-Fanwood
Times, as he looked back over the 15 years he and his family have been in this area.

After teaching private lessons on the violin and viola for 30 years, lessons, one might expect he would have some stellar students to remember.
The violin teacher of Matthew Leong, a Westfield High School sophomore, was quick to tell of Matthew’s

“Last year, he was one of the few freshmen to ever make the Regional High School Orchestra,” said Gaskill.
This pupil was Concertmaster of the Westfield Elementary School Orchestra and the Edison Middle School
Orchestra. He was also Principal Second of the New Jersey Youth Orchestra and will be a member of the New Jersey Youth Symphony this year. But Matthew Leong is only one of many success stories. In fact, 13 of Gaskill’s students have made it to the New Jersey Youth Symphony this year alone. One of his former students, Christopher Fyhr, was Concertmaster of the Cranford High School Orchestra, and went on to major in violin at Rutgers University. When Fyhr was assistant Concertmaster at New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), Gaskill attended a concert.

“It was quite a thrill to see him there,” he said, beaming like a proud parent. Some of his students have been with him for half of their lifetime. He spoke wistfully of one high school student who has been with him since the age of five who is moving out of the state.

“It breaks my heart to see this student go,” he shared. “It’s remarkable to see talent develop,” he said. “And you really can’t predict who will be dedicated and disciplined to stick with it.”

When he sees talent, he said he just knows it right away. “Oh sometimes there are surprises. In two or three months of not progressing, all of a sudden they just take off and really get into it,” he explained.

Although Gaskill thinks that five is the best age to start the violin, people can pick it up at any age.

“If they aren’t ready — sometimes kids are pushed by the parents — it doesn’t work,” said Gaskill, who also discussed the delicacy of walking a “tightrope” in pushing children or letting them develop at their own pace.

Gaskill is a man passionate about music and teaching. In fact, he teaches six days a week. Although his 45 students ranging from age five to adult keep him busy, from time to time he still finds time to work in Lincoln Center.

He noted that he came to Westfield for the tranquility, after living in Manhattan for most of his professional life. According to Gaskill, one of the only negative aspects of teaching violin in Westfield is the competition for the students’ time.

“We’re in constant competition with swim team, soccer...it’s a fight for their time,” he said. It is difficult to do recitals with lots of students because of the scheduling conflicts.

“They are usually just too busy,” he said of his students. Before audition time rolls around, however, he will schedule a recital in his house with a few students to get them used to playing for a small audience. Maybe that is why they do so well in competition. And perhaps it is just that his passion for music has been passed from teacher to student.