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Teens work with a violin lands him a first-place prize
Darrien Davis has been playing violin since he was 6. Recently he won first place in the 2009 Georgia State Fiddlers Convention held in Hiawassee.

When he was 2 years old, Darrien Davis, 14, of Gainesville spent his days learning to walk, talk and — oh, yeah — discover his passion for violin.

"I walked up to my dad and I said, ‘Dad, I want to play this," Davis said. "He said, ‘What?' and he went into my room, and I had classical (music) on my radio."

Davis said he pointed out the sound of the violin, and his father explained that the violin was a very difficult instrument to play.

"He said, ‘Wait until you're 5 years old. If you're still really serious, we'll get you a violin then,'" he said. "Every day, I was like, ‘Dad, am I 5 yet? Am I 5 yet? Am I 5 yet?'"

And finally, when he did turn 5, Davis got his violin and he began playing it at age 6, when his parents found an instructor.

The years of practice have paid off for Davis, who recently won first place in the 2009 Georgia State Fiddlers Convention in Hiawassee for his age group.

Although he first heard violin played in a classical style, he said, "My favorite style, really, is fiddling. I love it. It is free-flowing, and classical is really strict."

"You know, I mean, you can't take the song and just turn it inside out (with classical music), you know? And just play your heart out with it," he added. "But (with) fiddling you can just do whatever you want with the song, especially if you're in a competition like I was."

For the competition, Davis said he took several arrangements of "The Grey Eagle," a "breakdown" or fast piece, and "Lover's Waltz," a slow piece, and blended them to make each song unique.

He said preparing for the competition took almost a year of "a lot of practicing and a lot of work."

Davis' future plans include spending some time in a recording studio to produce his first album and attending college with a major in performing arts.

To prime his college résumé, Davis also has performed with symphonies at Toccoa Falls College, Gainesville State College and, currently, the Athens Youth Symphony.

"Every middle school and high school orchestra I go to I love, because the people get into it not because it is a class that they're made to go to, but because (it is) something they want to do," he said.

He said getting experience in orchestras is another way he improves.

"I think just anything you play helps," he said. "You know, every little bit helps. A hundred pennies make a dollar."