Armed with musical talent

Southport Middle School seventh grader has ability well beyond her age

Her face is full of emotion and concentration. Her fingers dance up and down the fingerboard, hitting every note. Her bow glides smoothly across all the strings. Her body sways to the rhythm of the melodic sounds she produces through her violin. The playing echoes throughout the room and resonates into the ears of anyone who listens. Without fault, she effortlessly plays “Allegro Brillante, Op. 19” by W. Ten Have from her memory. 

Armed with prodigious musical talent, seventh grader Mariko Davis has caught the eye of SHS’s music department.

Haley Miller
Seventh grader Mariko Davis plays the violin. She has been playing since 4 years old, and she recently found her love for the oboe.

Davis has been developing her violin skills since the young age of four. Her mom, Wakako Davis, was inspired to start Davis in violin lessons by a friend of hers, who was a violin teacher and had started to teach her own daughter how to play the violin. She wanted her daughter to play an instrument she could easily practice in her house.

“I used to do ballet when I was younger,” Davis said. “My mom said it was not that easy to practice at home, so she thought that it would be better for me to play the violin and that’s how I started.”

Wakako soon found a private teacher for Davis to start teaching her the basic skills of playing the violin, and she sat through all her lessons so that she could help her at home too. Davis slowly progressed from learning on a box violin to learning on a real one.

“I got myself a violin and learned with her so I could teach her at home because a parent’s role at that young age is as much as the teacher or more,” Wakako said. “You are home with them, and you have to teach them how to play things, so I learned to play basic violin when she started.” 

Wakako has also helped Davis improve her talent more by letting her participate in competitions that will prepare her for the difficult pieces she plays. She also encouraged Davis to join the New World Youth Orchestra. It is an Indianapolis-based youth symphony orchestra where the top-level artists meet every Sunday to practice for the three concerts they have at Hilbert Circle Theater every year. Playing with the older kids in the orchestra, Wakako says, make Davis want to be better. 

Davis also says she is still a little shy playing in front of an audience, but she says that playing her violin puts her in a trance where she can get lost in a musical world, free from the stress of daily life. Even with the new and additional instruments she is learning to play, she still finds about an hour every day to practice the scales, etudes and her main pieces on the violin. But, like every musician, she goes down the path to learn her pieces through trial and error. 

“She gets frustrated sometimes with a difficult passage or phrase,” Wakako said. “She will get upset, and I will hear her stomping her feet or yelling, but I do love listening to her practice.”

Davis is currently playing the oboe for the Southport Middle School band. However, she also plays for eighth grade orchestra due to her advanced violin skills. On top of that, she has been playing the piano since she was in fifth grade and has recently picked up bass guitar for the school’s jazz band. She has already made her band teacher, Rejeana Overmyer, proud from the first time meeting her to her quick reflex in learning the oboe. 

Haley Miller
Mariko practices consistently to work on her skills. Her mom first got her a tutor and she practiced on a box violin.

“She seemed like a real go-getter,” Overmyer said. “She took to the oboe pretty quickly, and she encouraged the other double reed players around her to get better. Before I knew it, I was passing all of them music that was a grade above them.”

The middle school orchestra teachers were worried the beginning orchestra class they teach would be too easy for Davis. The class would start with learning the names of the strings and how to pluck them, while Davis has already advanced to playing various pieces from composers whose names the class will not have heard of yet. Instead, she found the oboe to be the perfect fit for an easy and fun instrument to learn during her middle school years.

“The reason why I am not in orchestra is because it would be way too easy,” Davis said. “When we were trying out for instruments, I played the oboe and I really liked the sound of it. Since I play my violin in the key of C, which is the same for oboe, it’s really fun.” 

Not only did Davis pick up the oboe with ease, she even challenges her band teacher to keep up with her immense musical growth.

“I find myself having to stay on my toes with her, just to make sure that she is not getting bored,” Overmyer said. “You never want kids like Mariko getting bored. I think we have done a good job, giving her specific challenges like getting her involved in (ISSMA) Solo & Ensemble contests, things like that, and accompanying her higher-level needs.” 

Davis has earned the support of her mom and her teachers from how much she has improved and accomplished throughout the last couple of years.

“She comes in, and she does what she needs to do,” Overmyer said. “She is always wanting to improve and knows exactly what she needs to work on. She is not one of those kids who plays what she wants to play. She knows exactly what needs work and is willing to help the other people around her get better at those things too.” 

Davis’s musical talent has also caught the eye of SHS orchestra teacher Thomas Wright. He was so impressed with her playing that he has accepted her into advanced orchestra without the required audition. Wright also said that he is proud of her for getting a perfect score on her solo and ensemble contest last year, which he says was hard to achieve for a sixth grader competing in group 1. He is excited to have her to be part of his class and has already had her play with his advanced students in the Perry Art Show earlier this year. She says she is excited to meet new people and anxious to be joining his orchestra class and stay in band for her freshman year.

Haley Miller
The violin appealed to Davis because it can be easily practiced at home compared to ballet. Although she loves the violin, she is considering being a surgeon when she is older.

Although she has many musical interests, Davis wants to follow her other non-musical dreams as well. She is currently thinking about becoming surgeon when she gets older, but she still wants to have music in her life. 

“I think it would be better off that I wouldn’t play professionally because I have other dreams in pursuit,” Davis said. “But probably when I get older, I could be a violin teacher.”

Wakako agrees with her daughter, encouraging her to follow her different goals for the future.

“If she wants to, she could continue to practice and take more lessons,” Wakako said. “She could probably go to college, not necessarily major in music, but still be part of the orchestra and music.” 

No matter what the future holds in store for Davis, those who have heard her play the violin, piano or oboe can see the amazing talent she has.

“I can see her doing great things later on, just because she is at the level she is at already,” Overmyer said. “I really think she’s got some natural ability as well, and she should seriously consider going into some area of music, whether it be teaching or performing professionally. I think she can make it as a professional performer, and we don’t see that a lot.”

Full violin performance by Mariko Davis