Our Stories

Playing with His Heart on His Sleeve

A stack of 78-rpm records were violinist Daniel Rouslin's first musical influence. They belonged to his grandfather, a grocer and tailor who had played violin and conducted a small orchestra before emigrating from England. Rouslin's parents scheduled piano lessons for him at age six, but Rouslin had already fallen in love with the violin, which he heard at a school assembly. "I came home and said I wanted to play the violin, and I've been doing it ever since," says the Willamette music professor, who has performed throughout the United States, Europe, South America, the Middle East, Japan and China.

"I tell my students it's not enough just to practice hard. Music is a whole world," Rouslin says. "You grow by listening to performers who have something to say and the tools to say it." Rouslin's playing has changed as he has matured. "I've stopped worrying about mistakes and worry more about communicating. I'm not as afraid to wear my heart on my sleeve."

Rouslin, who performs with Trio Oregon, Ensemble East West and the Salem Chamber Orchestra -- where he is concertmaster -- plays with empathy for the composer, the audience and the music itself. That same empathy carries him into our community, where he has volunteered in numerous ways over the years.

The man who has performed to worldwide acclaim has spent days sorting food at the Marion-Polk Food Share. He's tutored homeless children at the Salem Outreach Shelter, and when one boy didn't need tutoring in traditional subjects, Rouslin taught him to play violin, giving the child free lessons long after he left the shelter. He organized an earthquake relief concert last June for quake victims in China and participated in a benefit concert for the Mid-Valley Women's Shelter. He also serves on the Artistic Advisory Committee for the Salem Chamber Orchestra and volunteers as section coach for the Salem Youth Symphony, where he helps young violinists refine their skills before each concert.

Rouslin expends a great deal of energy on campus and in the community, and to find renewal he goes to the mountains, strapping on his backpack for a wilderness trek each summer. Last year it was the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, and the year before he hiked 200 miles along the top of the Continental Divide in Montana.

Rouslin will perform with the Willamette University Chamber Players and guest violist Danny Seidenberg Wednesday, March 18, at 7:30 p.m. in Hudson Hall.