SANDPOINT — When a 4-year-old points to a symphony orchestra and announces that one day he wants to be the concertmaster, it sounds precocious. In the case of Sandpoint native Jason Moody, who made the announcement to his parents John and Ginny during one of the early performances of The Festival at Sandpoint, it turned out to be prescient.
Moody returns to the Sandpoint stage tonight as first violinist with the Spokane Symphony Orchestra. His wife, Earecka Tregenza, will also be performing as the orchestra’s principal harpist. The couple met in graduate school at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University in Houston, and have been traveling the world and making music together since they were married two years ago.
As classical musicians, both were seeking positions with a full-time symphony, but neither imagined they would be lucky enough to play together. After Earecka auditioned for and won the principal harpist spot in Spokane, she learned there was also an open seat in the violin section. In short order, Jason was holding down that spot.
“When we first got married, we never thought we’d be able to have jobs in the same orchestra,” Jason said. “A year into our marriage that happened, so we feel really blessed.”
Both Jason and Earecka came up through the musical ranks as very young players who received notoriety
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at a tender age. The violinist had already begun studying with Caroline Hatch of the Fiddler’s Hatchery by the time he made his Memorial
Field prediction during a Festival concert. He later went on to study with Kelly Farris - the very concertmaster who inspired that career choice. By sixth grade, he had his first opportunity to play with a symphony orchestra.
Earecka’s first symphony experience happened at an even younger age. As an 8-year-old, she had developed an affinity for her instrument and played with a natural ability that belied her years. The orchestra was new territory, however, and an assistant conductor had to explain why there was a man standing in front of the group waving his arms around and how those gyrations somehow related to all the little dots on the score in front of her.
By the time she reached college, Earecka had made up her mind that any future husband would not be someone who had elected to play music for a living.
“I never wanted to marry a musician because I thought we would be too much the same,” she said. “Then I met Jason.”
“Musicians have this neurosis about practicing and performing,” Jason said. “It takes another musician to understand and not feel jilted.”
The couple keeps what they call a “musician’s schedule” of not so early to bed and not so early to rise — mostly due to a symphony rehearsal regimen that gets them home well after 10 p.m. Several hours of each day are spent practicing their respective parts in what often is the same musical score. Once those solo sessions wrap up, the couple enjoys playing off-the-cuff duets.
“Symphony work is great, but it’s especially wonderful making music with your husband,” Earecka said.
“A lot of it is just for fun,” said Jason. “It’s a refresher after practicing orchestral music all day.”
Although now living in Spokane, the couple still bounces back-and-forth between that city and Seattle, where Earecka has played with the Seattle Symphony and Jason, along with other musical commitments, has become a regular session violinist for soundtrack recording, including recent films such as “The Incredible Hulk” and “Mad Money.”
This past summer, Jason played at the Aldebourgh Festival in England, after which, the couple spent time traveling Europe together. Traveling as musicians brings a distinctly different challenge for the two players. Jason cradles his instrument in its case and is on his way, while Earecka’s harp requires more time and space to transport. Now that they’re married, the violinist shares joint responsibility for making sure the harp — and the harpist — get to the required destination on time and in good condition.
“It makes me high maintenance,” Earecka joked.
Pre-marriage, all boys were restricted to moving the instrument’s bench.
“I wouldn’t let them touch the harp,” she said.
“Once you seal the deal, you’re allowed to move the harp,” Jason said.
Years before, Earecka made a conscious decision to take up the much larger instrument when, at age 6, she had already determined that piano and violin were not her musical cup of tea.
“Piano was too dull,” she said. “And I didn’t like the violin, because it was too squeaky.”
Why, then, did she fall in love with a man who plays the violin all day long?
“He doesn’t squeak any more,” she said.
“Oh, I still have a good squeak every once in a while,” Jason offered.
Neither musician ever felt saddled with the burden of being considered a child prodigy. According to Earecka, there was always someone better than she was, someone who could encourage and inspire her own playing. For Jason, being considered a boy wonder on his instrument never got in the way of just being a boy.
“One of the great things about growing up in Sandpoint was that I was still skiing and running and mountain biking,” he said. “Music was just another thing I was doing at the time — one of my passions.”
The dream job that 4-year-old Jason Moody predicted he would hold later in life comes with built-in applause as the concertmaster takes the stage to cue the tuning of the orchestra. But then, audiences and applause are things the young player has long been accustomed to, having been the first recipient of the Coldwater Creek Music Scholarship on The Festival stage and being featured with Farris in the Bach double violin concerto at the same venue.
In between — among numerous other achievements — Moody gained a national radio audience when he was named the winner of a Prairie Home Companion Talent from Small Towns contest in 1999.
By the time he got the opportunity to serve as concertmaster for the All-Northwest Orchestra that same year, Jason was pleased, but not overwhelmed by the prospect. In his words:
“Really, you just walk out and stand there until everyone gets tuned. And then you sit down.”
Jason Moody, Earecka Tregenza and a host of their musical friends will be on stage tonight with Maestro Gary Sheldon, the Spokane Symphony Orchestra and featured soloist Richard Stoltzman in a season finale celebration of Big Band-era music called “Swing, Swing, Swing!” Gates open at 4:30 p.m. for a complimentary wine tasting and the concert begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $34.95 for adults, $9.95 for 18 and under, available at the ticket booth.