Some see Yamaha artist Christian Howes standing on the greatest stages of the world, bow in hand, his instrument tucked under his chin, and consider him a virtuosic violinist. Others know him as a devoted educator, inspiring future musicians with his passionate energy and musicianship. Many consider him to be a great producer who consistently creates compelling atmospheres for recordings of all genres. But for the incredibly versatile musician, passion, creative growth and the drive to always be better and to change lives is what defines him. That is what Howes relies on to continue his mark in the ever-changing world of music.
A native of Columbus, Ohio, Howes began his classical music education at the age of five. He progressed with recitals, concerts and workshops as a musical prodigy, winning competitions, scholarships and the high praise of many top instructors. At 16, he performed the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. After placing in national classical competitions while still in his teens, Howes set out to build upon a strong classical foundation and distinguish himself in jazz and contemporary repertoires. He went on to become a flourishing musician performing all over the world. Howes' tours have taken him throughout the United States, the Far East and across Europe, including a part-time residence in Spain, where he has collaborated with some of that country's finest musicians.
In recent years, Howes has become an in-demand violinist on the New York scene, performing and recording with a bevy of jazz artists, including saxophonists Bill Evans and Greg Osby, pianist D.D. Jackson, guitarist Les Paul, drummer Dafnis Prieto, vibraphonist Dave Samuels' Caribbean Jazz Project, crossover pioneers Spyro Gyra and many more. He has also made contributions as a studio player to numerous commercial recordings all the while keeping a busy touring schedule over the past several years.
Howes' devotion to education and support of young string musicians is unparalleled. In 2004, he created the Creative Strings Workshop, a summer camp that focuses on facilitating an intimate and realistic learning experience for string players of all ages. The Workshop takes place for one week each summer in Howes' hometown of Columbus, Ohio. Howes credits the Mark O'Connor Fiddle Camps and the Chautauqua Institution in western New York as the inspirations for his own workshop.
"I was invited to teach at the Mark O'Connor Fiddle Camp when my daughter, Camille, was three years old," recalls Howes. "It occurred to me that summer camps were a perfect opportunity for me to consolidate my energy as a father, musician, artist and professional. I could be growing musically and professionally while my daughter and I were together, and she could be enriched by the community and spirit of fiddle camp as well. I discovered then that I had a true love for teaching."
His participation in the famed summer festival at the Chautauqua Institution also served as a major motivation. "Chautauqua was a very special place for me, especially as a teenager finding my way" he says. "It was a place where my peers were completely devoted to practicing and creating music. The experience was powerful; it definitely was a factor in starting my own summer camp nearly 20 years later." Currently, the Creative Strings Workshop is one of the most popular summer programs in the country. In addition to learning and performing, participants engage in spirited, after-official-hours collaboration and jamming with other students and faculty members. Howes focuses on each participant's goals, before, during and after the Workshop is long finished. "A unique element of the CSW is that it doubles as a performance festival," says Howes. "In Columbus during one week alone, we performed over 25 concerts publicly in different venues, from café's to parks, to clubs and theatres." In addition to CSW, Howes is an Associate Professor at the Berklee College of Music and is also one of Yamaha's most popular clinicians.
The other hat that Howes proudly wears is that of a music producer. "For years, I've been called to be a 'one-man string orchestra' in studios for all different styles and genres," Howes says. "To have someone play string parts in the non-classical world requires knowledge of diverse styles. Producers need musicians who can work on the fly, improvise, and arrange parts quickly. I've developed these skills and can really fill a need for producers. With my stable of string instruments I can recreate the sound of an entire string section, enabling producers to have a full string orchestra, for a fraction of the cost." Howes' production company is becoming one of the premier providers of string production work to a global clientele of producers and self-produced artists. Howes sees collaboration as the heart of his production service. "I enjoy the collaborative process, it gives me a real thrill," he says. "Independent producers have been growing and it has given me an opportunity to contribute my talents." Howes brings passion, uniqueness and supreme musicality to the business. "Doing all these different things like performing, producing, teaching, composing, etc., keeps me on my toes. I"ve always believed that variety is the spice of life."
In September 2008, Howes is set to make a big splash with Heartfelt, his debut on Resonance Records. On the new record, Howes collaborates with legendary pianist-arranger Roger Kellaway, bassist Bob Magnusson and drummer Nate Wood. Heartfelt focuses on the passionate side of playing and will feature a few original tunes by Kellaway. "I've done a lot of eclectic projects in my life; this album is moving me towards the mainstream light. I'm very proud of this album."
Howes, who plays on a Yamaha SV-200 as well as a VNP-1 acoustic violin pick-up, truly values his relationship with Yamaha. He is one of Yamaha's most notable performing artists and is an extremely active clinician giving workshops continually in the United States and abroad. "They're really like a family, a supportive team of counselors," he says. "We're always bouncing back ideas around. I have a strong belief in their dedication to musical education and into the continuing evolution of their designs. The folks I've worked with at Yamaha care about the music and they care about the people making, studying, and teaching music. This comes through in their work." The relationship began when Howes first heard that Yamaha began production on a silent violin. "I organized a gig near their headquarters and had the opportunity to meet with them," remembers Howes. "All three members of my band immediately liked their instrument and I haven't looked back from that moment. I'm grateful for our 10+ year relationship."