Eighteen year old Alicyn Newman is no stranger to excellence. She has been playing the violin for over ten years, and her talent knows no boundaries. From performing at the Kentucky Opry with the Red River Fiddlers and winning state fiddle contests, to competing in a national fiddle contest in Idaho, this young lady knows her stuff when it comes to providing awesome musical entertainment.
I’ve had the privilege of knowing this exceptional teen since she was a baby, and I have loved watching her grow and mature in her talents, her education, and her love for God. She is truly exceptional in every way, and I hope you enjoy learning more about Alicyn.
Q: What first inspired you to want to play the violin? How old were you when you started?
A: I started expressing a desire to play the violin when I was almost eight years old. I don’t remember what sparked the interest, really. I just remember insisting to my mother that, even though she wanted me to learn piano, I wanted to play the “fiddle.” (No classical music, thank you. That would take another 2 years to become an interest.)
Despite the fact that it would be easier and cheaper for me to play piano, as my mom could have taught me herself, she signed me up for lessons with a fiddle teacher and I haven’t stopped playing since.
Q: Tell us about your involvement in the Red River Fiddlers Group.
A: I was part of the Red River Fiddlers, a student fiddling group created by my second violin instructor, for about six years. It was an awesome experience; not only did I get to play a variety of music with my peers and perform at venues ranging from hometown festivals to the Kentucky Opry at Land Between the Lakes, but it also taught me the art of stage presence and performance.
High school work eventually took over the time I had to dedicate to the group, so we dropped out two summers ago, but it was an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything.
Q: What awards have you won for playing the violin? What has your special talent done for your self-esteem?
A: As a family, we were very involved in the fiddling contest scene, which opened doors to friendships, lots of musical growth, and experience.
Over the years, I won several awards at fiddling and violin competitions:
- I held the champion title in my category at the Kentucky, Tennessee, and Indiana state fiddling competitions in 2008.
- In 2010, I placed 2nd at the Alabama state fiddling championship in my category, and 3rd at the National Oldtime Fiddlers’ Contest in Weiser, Idaho.
- In 2011 I won the Beginner Fiddle category at the Tennessee State Oldtime Fiddlers’ Championship.
- In 2012 I made runner-up in my category at the 41st Annual Grand Master Fiddling Championship.
I placed in a few other contests and categories as the years went by – 9th place at the Grand Master Fiddler Championship the second year I went, 5th place at the Twin Lakes National Fiddler Championship in 2013, etc.
As far as my self-esteem goes, competitive fiddling taught me a lot. You never know how the judges will respond, and it varies a lot from one contest to the next. In the children’s category, I won or placed at most of the competitions I attended, but in the teen category I was surrounded by many more advanced, talented players.
It was always a boost to my self-esteem to place high or even win, but at the end of the day, the lessons I learned – humility, good sportsmanship – from watching others get the award is what I value the most.
Q: I know you are a home schooled student, and have been since you began school as a kindergartner. Now that you are a high school senior, how do you feel being home schooled has given you advantages in your education?
A: For me, homeschooling is one of the best decisions my parents ever made. Personally, homeschooling has offered me so many experiences and learning opportunities that I’m not sure I would have gotten otherwise.
It’s taught me to work independently, and given us the freedom to choose curricula that work for us personally, as well as focus on outside activities in depth, such as martial arts and, of course, music.
In homeschool, all work is home work – I can go at my own pace, and turn any experience into an educational one (for example, asking my historian/theologian father a simple question about World War II, which turns into an hour–long lecture).
It’s also allowed me to develop strong family, friend, and church relationships, which I think are just as necessary to one’s education as good grades are. (Healthy relationships, healthy teen, healthy education.)
Q: What are some of your other passions and interests?
A: Among my other interests are writing and art, and on occasion, baking. I love finding new recipes to try, especially since I’m gluten and dairy intolerant. It stimulates my creative juices.
Speaking of which, art class has been my favorite class of the year thus far – I love watercolor, pen and ink, and sketching. I also enjoy crocheting and making potholders (which took up about 1/3 of my childhood) – anything that keeps my hands busy.
To top it all off, though, writing (primarily fiction) is by far my biggest passion. I come from a line of storytellers, and although my dad and grandfather are gifted orally, I tell mine through the written word, an art that allows me to use my imagination and convey the messages that I think the world should hear.
I’ve always said that you know a person has found their passion when they read books on a subject that other people would find too boring to pick up – that’s me. I snatch writers’ reference books off the shelves.
Q: What is a really important lesson you have learned in the last year?
A: A big lesson I’ve learned this year, and am still working on applying, is that perfectionism is overrated. I’m a perfectionist, and I hold myself to high standards and expectations.
While it’s good to aim high with my goals, I step into dangerous territory when I let failures discourage me from trying further. I want to be kind, I want to achieve all my goals, I want to be a morning person, I want to spend more time with God – but as much as I try, I’m only human, and I fail.
I’ve learned that although God wants me to keep trying, the pressure’s off to be “good enough”; with Christ, “good enough” isn’t a factor, and I can live freely knowing that He offers more than enough grace to cover my mistakes.
I can live freely knowing that He offers more than enough grace to cover my mistakes.
Q: What do you see as the biggest challenge facing teens today?
A: From my experience and perspective, a challenge that I often see teens facing is pressure. As young people learn about themselves, and the ways of the world and society, we undergo externally- and internally-afflicted pressure of all kinds: pressure to look good, to get into the right college, to impress the right people, to not live up to the teenage stereotype, to conform to a world that wants us to fit in its box, despite cheerful messages telling you to “Be yourself!”
I know that pressure is felt by all ages, and that, after all, it takes pressure to create diamonds. But pressure of the wrong kinds and quantities can be crushing and restraining to young people, and I see its effects on my generation. We’re struggling in the quicksand of learning how to handle it, desperate to fully cast it off so we can become who we were created to be.
Q: What opportunities do you think more teens should take advantage of?
A: Opportunities to live. I know I’ve missed countless opportunities to do things that will make lasting memories, or mean something to someone else, especially as a teen. I’ve lost some of the imaginative spontaneity and courage of childhood, and built up a comfort zone with thick walls. The result? Wasted moments, and missed opportunities to enjoy life and all its ups and downs.
Recently, however, I made a bunch of cookies and shared them with the neighbors. I drove myself to my grandmother’s and stayed for a visit. On a snowy evening, my family all gathered in the den and Dad read out loud to us. These things may seem small, but they were things that will last, and I think those are the opportunities that teens need to watch for.
Q: What do you plan to do after graduating from high school? Do your future plans include involvement in music?
A: I’m planning to attend college in the fall. Right now, I’m leaning towards an English major with a creative writing focus, while a minor is still up in the air. I also plan to audition for my college’s orchestra, and see if I can get involved with some musicians on campus.
After I read her responses, all I could say was “Wow.” Alicyn’s answers to the questions I posed were real and thought provoking, and demonstrated true wisdom beyond her years.
Alicyn reinforces my belief that teens have marvelous thoughts and abilities that we need to pay attention to and acknowledge regularly. She also gave some of the best advice I have ever read for overcoming perfectionism. Amazing the things we can learn from kids.
I expect to see this godly, talented young woman’s life unfold into some incredible pathways in the not-too-distant future. I am privileged and proud to know this wonderful person and her family.
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