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Tuesday, June 21,2011

She plays hard for the money

Street violinist Alexis Dawdy adds her own touch of classical class to Lansing's downtown

by Tracy Key

In the business district of downtown
Lansing, a high-pitched trill of music can be heard floating almost
effortlessly through the air. Distant at first, it becomes louder and
more distinct as you approach South Washington Square. As you turn
around the corner, your eyes find the source of the music: a young woman
wearing striped stockings, a short black dress and a lacey petticoat,
solemnly performing classical violin pieces for anyone willing to
listen.


This may not sound like a sight one would expect to
encounter in the career-oriented atmosphere that is iconic of Michigan’s
capital, but Alexis Dawdy and her violin have become as much a part of
the weekday ambiance as professionals in business suits and political
rallies.


Dawdy, 22, has been playing the violin
for 17 years. She has also performed in numerous orchestral groups,
including eight years in the Lansing Junior Symphony, two years as
concertmaster in the Mid Michigan Youth Symphony, and performances with
the Lansing Matinee Musical, the Greater Lansing Symphony Orchestra and
the Mason Orchestral Society.


However, many simply know her as the street violinist.


Her history as a busker began in her hometown of
Charlevoix when she was 14. She wanted to find a job, but no one was
willing to hire someone so young, so she decided to take matters into
her own hands. She got dressed up in a pair of striped stockings and a
beret, grabbed her violin and started playing outside in the middle of
the city.


“My parents laughed at me,” Dawdy recalls. “They thought
it was ridiculous, and they gave me an hour. They said, ‘We’ll be
waiting in the pizza place,’ and an hour later, I had $30, and my dad
was knocked over when I opened my violin case, because 30 one-dollar
bills looks a little bit impressive.”


Her instant success led to many repeat performances for
summer tourists in Charlevoix, But for the past year, Dawdy has focused
her efforts on Lansing instead in order to keep her violin skills sharp
and make money to help pay for her college education at Michigan State
University.'


Around the time she began performing in Lansing, she was
going through some personal hardships, but she said she always looked
forward to playing because it was “one of the only things that really
made my life feel right,” and that her experiences have had a tremendous
positive impact on her.


“Really, this has changed my life,” the violinist said
with a smile as she recalled some of her experiences. “I met my
boyfriend doing this, and he’s one of the best things that ever happened
to me.”'


Dawdy said that she loves her job and all the people she
meets. She plans on continuing her midday concerts indefinitely.
However, there is one thing aside from her music that she wishes she
could share with everyone.


“I really do want to say 'thank you' every time somebody
tips me,” she said. “When people walk by, I oftentimes cannot say that I
really appreciate what they are doing for me to help pay for books and
school.”



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