The Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock

‘Child prodigies’ delight Mass-goers with classical violins

Siblings also entertain local residents in symphony, string ensemble performances

Published: August 27, 2016   
Courtesy Leo Clegg
Paige Sexauer, 10, and Ethan Sexauer, 11, play at St. Peter the Fisherman Church in Mountain Home during an Aug. 7 Mass to celebrate Father Chris Okeke’s 25th jubilee. The siblings started playing the violin as toddlers.

MOUNTAIN HOME — Ethan Sexauer is particular about just what style of music he likes to play on his violin. Baroque is his favorite and if it’s slow, forget it — “I’m not a fan of tortoise speeds,” he said.

“I like one of the movements from ‘The Four Seasons’ by Antonio Vivaldi, I don’t know which one, but I like them all,” he said. “They show a lot of feeling, and I really like listening to that piece of music.”

His sister Paige is also a fan of classical, yet playing slow songs is what she enjoys most.

Despite their different preferences, the two St. Peter the Fisherman parishioners have both been accomplished violinists for just shy of a decade — which for them means almost their entire lives.  

“I like performing at a church. We like doing it just to make people happy. They’re there and why not make it better?” Ethan, 11, said, with his sister Paige, 10. “I’d like to thank Mr. (John) Barnes for letting us have a chance and we do really good at it, and we make the crowd happy.”

When Ethan was just 4 years old, Barnes, director of music at St. Peter, allowed him to play during Mass. Paige has since joined her brother and the two have played on and off for years.

“They are exceptional; both of them are child prodigies. They both have been blessed with a beautiful talent,” Barnes said. “He used to listen to this classical music — Mozart and Corelli — and just play it from memory until he learned to read the music. People love them and they lend so much beauty to the Mass.”

Parents Matt and Sandy Sexauer, of Cotter, introduced the children to the violin when they were 3½ and 2½ years old. Matt said his sister gave her children and Ethan and Paige their first violins.

They began taking private lessons, which they continue today. They typically practice every day up to two hours.

Beyond Mass, the two are members of the local Classic String Ensemble and the Mountain Home Symphony, where Ethan is first violinist, second chair — “the one next to the concert master,” he explained — and Paige is second violinist, second chair.

Paige is as quiet as the soft melodies she enjoys playing. However, she enjoys having her own spotlight, as does her brother.

“I like playing on my own, but we play together. I can get something done without him playing,” she said with a big smile.

The two also sing and play their violins along with the St. Peter children’s choir and are altar servers.  

“I got a bigger violin so hopefully the next time I do it with the children’s choir I don’t overpower because I want to hear their voices because they’re lovely, and I don’t want to be too loud,” Ethan said.

Paige, who also plays the piano, said she wouldn’t mind becoming a professional violinist, but for now, her dream is to become a teacher.

“Probably literacy, I like reading,” she said, adding C.S. Lewis is her favorite author. “I like to read lots and lots of books, but I also like to draw pictures of birds.”

While Ethan dreams of being a professional violinist in a symphony somewhere in the Midwest, his focus for now will be sixth grade, his advanced seventh-grade math class and dreaming of places to travel.

“Travel, watch TV, look at animals, read books. Go online and order a bunch of travel guides so I can actually go to the places I want to,” he said of his hobbies.

He’d most like to visit Alaska.

“It’s so big, barely populated. The population density is only one person per square mile and I like to be in a less crowded place instead of being in a place like New York City or something. I can be out there exploring.”

Their parents said they are happy with what they’ve been able to accomplish so far.

“I’m just happy, very blessed with two cute kids. They’re both very talented and both very good,” said their mother Sandy, with Matt adding, “I second that.”

With all the performances throughout their life, which include churches in other states and various concert settings, Ethan and Paige still say playing at St. Peter is their favorite.

“We’re making the people happy and that’s good enough for me,” Ethan said. 

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