She has played alongside Andrea Bocelli and heads up her own symphony. So perhaps it's no surprise that Emiko Wennerholt was only 2 when she discovered her life's passion: the violin.
"When I was 2, my parents took me to a church to see a great string quartet," Wennerholt, who lives in Port Richey, said. "I was still wearing diapers and I was so mesmerized. I walked up to the front and sat before the violinist playing in the group. After the concert I told my mom and dad, 'I want to play violin.' "
The New York native picked up her first violin at age 5 and — while being raised in Tokyo — received 11 years of training on the Suzuki Violin Method. She went on to graduate from the prestigious Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan, then to earn a Bachelor of Music in Violin Performance from the University of Miami and a Master of Music in Violin Performance from the University of Texas at Austin. She went on to complete all of the coursework requirements toward a Doctor of Musical Arts degree.
Aside from studying music Wennerholt performs it as well; at age 32 she has played with the St. Petersburg Opera Orchestra and the Florida Orchestra the past two seasons. She has performed internationally with orchestras in Japan, Switzerland, and Portugal, and in the United States with the Miami Symphony, the Miami Lyric Opera, the Symphony of the Americas, the San Antonio Symphony, and the Florida Sunshine Pops Orchestra. And in December 2012 she played with the orchestra that accompanied famed tenor Andrea Bocelli when he performed in Tampa.
"In the setting of a symphony," she said, "I can enjoy the company of others who share my love for music."
Although she now plays the viola, the cello and the piano, Wennerholt still declares the violin to be her favorite instrument. And it is this instrument she will play at her solo classical recital 6 p.m. Saturday, July 27, at Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church, 5340 High St. in New Port Richey.
"When played properly, the violin sounds like a person singing," she said. "You can play just about any genre of music on the violin, including classical, jazz, improvisational and country."
Now Wennerholt seeks to share her great love with young people in the community. In January 2012 she founded the Greater Pasco Youth Symphony, a nonprofit started "for the vision of bringing the gift of a string orchestra into a county which lacks proper funding in the school system to provide this experience to its youth."
"The orchestra allows children who don't have anywhere else to play a chance to perform in an orchestra setting," said Wennerholt.
When the orchestra resumes its fall season, Wennerholt hopes it will expand; both in terms of its membership, open to students in grades 5-12 who have completed at least one full year of study in their chosen instrument, and in the number and variety of places the orchestra performs in the community.
In the meantime Wennerholt teaches private violin lessons to students at Music Matters in New Port Richey, and in a home studio.
"She's both very professional and comfortable with students, and she is capable of teaching a wide range of abilities," said Kevin Abendroth, who co-owns Music Matters with wife Barbara. "We are privileged to have Emiko here at Music Matters."
One of Wennerholt's Miami-based students, Terrence Smith, is scheduled to play Carnegie Hall later this year. She says that teaching students to play instruments is her way "to share my talents with the community."
In the future she hopes to expand her musical outreach, continuing her teaching and public performances while also venturing into the field of musical therapy; performing for the elderly and infirm, and for children in hospitals and hospices. "Music is a healer," she said.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: Violinist Emiko Wennerholt will perform at 6 p.m. Saturday at Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church, 5340 High St. in New Port Richey. A story on Wednesday's Things To Do page in the Pasco Times listed an incorrect day.