Music was always a part of my identity. From infancy, I was exposed to great classical music. My dad belonged to the Columbia Records Club, and he played vinyl LPs on a hi-fi that sat in a cabinet he had crafted himself. We lived in Mt. Pleasant and Sioux City, IA, and our travels were limited. Thus, our living room was the grand hall for most of the great musical performances I got to hear. I was fascinated as I listened to Isaac Stern playing the Beethoven Violin Concerto; he made a profound impression on me.
I began playing violin at age four. I do not remember my first instrument. I do know that my parents once ordered a violin for me from Japan. By the time it arrived, I had outgrown it.
With playing, my mom did the tough work, taking me to lessons and performances. Though she grinned on the surface, I imagine she grimaced below, at the first shrieks of my E-string. She expected and enforced practice and excellence from me. I resisted. In spite of myself, I discovered that I happened to be pretty good at it.
By the time I was 12 or 13, I really kicked into gear and began taking playing seriously. Not only could I play well, but I loved doing it. Maya Angelou said, "Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness." I trust that during those typical teenage years, music served as a refuge for me, as well. I began to view it not only as a passion, but as a path to a career and education.
Thus, I continued my pursuit of music. I studied under the mentorship of the late Wilfred Biel at Drake University in Des Moines. One of the benefits of being at Drake was the opportunity to play in a professional orchestra while getting my education. In 1981, I began playing with the Des Moines Symphony Orchestra. After graduation, I attended the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and studied with Norman Paulu. By then, I was immersed in music, spending eight hours a day in practice, rehearsals, and orchestras.
I returned to Des Moines where, I became involved in violin repair and in the business of music. The rest is history. I reached a pivotal moment in determining my career path. I explored a gamut of options. Yet, I knew that music was so deeply engrained in me, I could not separate it from my daily life. I have music going through my head almost all the time, the way some people free associate donuts.
In 1994, my spouse, Deborah, and I began Becker Fine Stringed Instruments, LLC, with the encouragement of family and colleagues. Because of the demands and time constraints of a retail business, I reluctantly resigned from the symphony after playing for 22 years. My interests include astronomy, scrabble, bridge, golf, martial arts, nature, politics, physics, and, of course, music! My acquired discipline and training in music, taught me to approach each of these interests from the ground up, much as one begins with playing scales.
Today, Deborah and I are proud of, and committed to, every aspect of our service-oriented business; it has attained national repute. I am grateful to have had the support of our local community. It is especially gratifying for me to witness how importantly great, classical music remains in the lives of so many young people.