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Food & Wine

Savory succotash: A roasted salad for  early fall features tomato, corn and beans

Savory succotash: A roasted salad for early fall features tomato, corn and beans

Photo Eliza Ridgeway/Town Crier
Fresh shelling beans, corn and tomatoes extend the summer’s fresh produce spree well into October.

Although the Los Altos Farmers’ Market has closed and pumpkins and winter squash are in ascendance, this month pr...



Your Health

Dose matters: Flu shot for older adults

Dose matters: Flu shot for older adults

Seniors can choose between two flu shots this season, Fluzone and Fluad.

The routine wisdom for most people, young and old, is to get flu shots early. Many people head to the nearest clinic or pharmacy and roll up their sle...



Your Home

Architectural artistry: Los Altos homeowners invite the outside in

Architectural artistry: Los Altos homeowners invite the outside in

Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Margo and Dale Seymour’s Los Altos home features avant-garde architecture boasting unique angles and glass walls inviting the indoors in.

What’s new becomes old and what’s old can appear new.

This pretty much sums u...



On The Road

Hydrogen haven

Hydrogen haven

Gary Anderson/Special to the Town Crier
Los Altos resident Russ Ayres recently leased a Hyundai Tucson powered by hydrogen. The five-passenger SUV has a range of 265 miles. The nearest fueling station is in San Jose, but others are planned for Los ...



Senior Lifestyles

Expert offers strategies for seniors intimidated by the gym

Expert offers strategies for seniors intimidated by the gym

Courtesy of Brandpoint
To ward off “gym-timidation,” fitness expert Brian Zehetner encourages seniors to find a workout buddy and start slowly.

No one really relishes the idea of growing older and experiencing the health issues that can accompan...



Wedding To Remember

Got a wedding singer? Musicians and engaged couples work in tandem to orchestrate perfect night

Got a wedding singer? Musicians and engaged couples work in tandem to orchestrate perfect night

Courtesy of Dick Bright
Dick Bright, a veteran Bay Area musician, manages local bands such as the Dick Bright Orchestra, Club 90 and Encore. His bands ramp up the energy at weddings.

A wedding soundtrack draws nearly everyone to the dance floor....



Your Kids

Back to School

Is Early Decision the right choice for your student?

Is Early Decision the right choice for your student?

Courtesy of Hollis Bischoff
This chart compares the rate of Early Decision acceptances with the overall acceptance rate at various colleges.

As students apply to an ever-increasing list of schools, colleges are challenged to predict accuratel...



Violin virtuoso: Los Altos' own Stephen Waarts amazes with outstanding talent

Closing your eyes and listening to Los Altos resident Stephen Waarts play the violin, you wouldn’t believe you’re hearing a 12-year-old boy. His virtuosity leaves seasoned musicians shaking their heads in wonderment.

Stephen Waarts of Los Altos, shown above practicing at home and below, with the orchestra, takes on Tchaikovsky's difficult Concerto in D major, Opus 35 3rd movement, at the Silicon Valley Symphony's Nov. 15 concert.

“He’s just outrageously amazing,” said Michael Gibson, conductor of the Silicon Valley Symphony.

Stephen is scheduled to perform the challenging Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto at the symphony’s “Prodigy & Pops” concert 7:30 p.m. Nov. 15 at the Presbyterian Church of Los Gatos.

Although young, Stephen has already had several experiences performing live in concert and on the air. He recently played Tchaikovsky’s Concerto in D major, Opus 35 3rd movement, which was broadcast on Pen TV.

He has won top honors, including the grand prize in the 2008 Mondavi Center Third Annual Young Artists Competition, grades 4-8, and first place in the 2008 Young Artist Competition of the Diablo Symphony Orchestra.

Talent and relentless practice have framed Stephen’s musical development. He started to play the violin at 5, after his first encounter with the instrument at his kindergarten violin concert.

“That time he said he wanted to play guitar because my husband (Robert) plays a little bit of guitar,” said his mother, Orli Waarts.

But given the opportunity, Stephen picked up the violin.

“I like playing violin because it’s challenging and it’s nice to play music so that the audience can understand music better if I play it well,” Stephen said.

The young violinist is dedicated. While other youth his age play on the playground, he stays home and practices his violin at least three hours a day.

“I know that if I don’t practice, I won’t perform as well and I like to perform well,” Stephen said.

Despite an ear infection and wrist injuries, Stephen has persevered with his violin playing. He has not missed a practice in five years.

Two years after starting violin, he began to learn piano to help his violin playing.

At 12, he can already explain the technical differences between the two instruments.

Stephen’s favorite composers are Mozart and Tchaikovsky.

“I like Mozart because he’s very clever, so (his piece) is very clever music,” he said. “And Tchaikovsky, I like because it’s really passionate and more expressive than Mozart, and it’s more challenging (to play).”

Orli said she and her husband didn’t realize how gifted Stephen was until they heard people praise his performance at a summer camp.

“To me, his playing sounds very natural, very meaningful,” Orli said. “Like, he plays the piece, he immediately knows the phrasing, what should be important in the piece, the mood — he knows it.”

In addition to his technical talents as a violinist, Stephen also has an unusual memory.

“He doesn’t just play the notes, but he interprets the music and conveys it in his own musical voice,” Orli said.

Li Lin, Stephen’s violin teacher and a faculty member at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, said, “What is most fascinating about Stephen is that he possesses musical language as fluently as a mature man. His own voice might be as young as he is, but the voice of his violin playing is like a jewel of an ancient legend. Stephen is truly spectacular and definitely a rare talent.”

Stephen, a seventh-grader at the School for Independent Learners in Los Altos, shows talent in academics, too. He excels at many subjects, including math, science, history, English and French, and he recently finished the 12th-grade level of math — his favorite subject. He said math and playing the violin share something in common.

“Something in violin is very mathematical,” Stephen said. “In math, there’s only one correct answer, and in violin, there’s only one place to put your finger so it’s in tune.”

It’s obvious that he’s special, but Stephen still enjoys childhood pleasures.

Piled on the chair of Stephen’s room are stuffed animals that he treasures. From small to mid-sized, there are gorillas, lion, bears, monkeys and more.

“I don’t think I’m that much different (from other children),” he said. But he does believe he is fortunate.

“I’m lucky to have a good teacher – and … I have some kind of talent,” Stephen said.

Tickets for Stephen’s Nov. 15 concert are available online. For more information, visit www.siliconvalleysymphony.net/index.html.


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