Young Ridgefield violinist plays Happy Birthday at people’s homes
With no miracle in sight, Carlos Santana decided to cancel the European leg of his band’s Miraculous 2020 World Tour. Rage Against the Machine has to wait a few months longer to revisit fans on its Reunion Tour. Billie Eilish’s Where Do We Go? tour is not going anywhere anytime soon, and Keith Richards gets to spend more time in Weston now that the Rolling Stones’ No Filter tour is no bueno.
But Austin Wakin? He’s booking dates into early May.
You haven’t heard Austin in a club or on Spotify. He’s in the third grade at Ridgefield Academy, turned nine on March 8, and has been playing the violin for only three years now, taking lessons through the Ridgefield Suzuki School.
In the last week, though, Austin has become an in-demand performer for a local audience sequestered at home due to the coronavirus.
It started with an idea he had when his own birthday party was canceled.
“I was disappointed about my birthday, and then I started to think there were probably a lot of other kids and adults who were also sad that they couldn’t have parties,” Austin said. “I felt it would be nice to go out and play for them.”
Under his mom’s account, Wakin wrote a Facebook post last Wednesday.
“Hi, my name is Austin and I am 9 years old,” it began. “I live in Ridgefield and I play the violin. I am offering to come to your house and play Happy Birthday and a few other songs for anyone who has a birthday during the quarantine. (Playing would be outside at an acceptable distance, weather permitting.) I am doing this because I think music makes people happy ...”
Austin asked anyone interested to contact his mom, Alysa, via her email address, which he added at the end of the post. The requests began streaming in.
“He’s gone to 12 houses and has 20 more over the next month,” said Alysa on Monday morning. “He’s doing a couple every day and more on weekends.”
Austin’s stage is the front lawn of people’s homes. He typically plays for 10 to 15 minutes, beginning with Happy Birthday and then seguing into several classical minuets by Bach, Handel and Brahms.
“The people always come outside, keeping a safe distance,” said Alysa Wakin. “They usually gather on the lawn ... some are on their balconies. One of the best parts is that they are having family moments that they might not have had otherwise during this crazy time.”
Austin’s first performance was for a Ridgefield man celebrating his 55th birthday. He’s also played for five-year-old twins, and his largest crowd came when an 18-year-old notified neighbors, who came out of their houses to hear Austin.
The response led Alysa to create a Facebook page (Quarantine Kidz Birthday Club) that has a video of Austin playing Happy Birthday. Other musicians can post their own rendition of the song on the site.
“We thought it would be a way for people who don’t live close to us to celebrate their birthdays,” she said. “We’re hoping a lot of people will take part and post videos of themselves playing Happy Birthday.”
The experience makes Alysa glad that Austin was persistent in his efforts to begin playing the violin.
“He came home [from kindergarten] with a flier from school and said he wanted to take lessons,” she said. “I thought ‘yeah, sure’ and figured he would forget about it. But when he kept bringing home the flier, I realized he was serious.”