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Food & Wine

Humble shortbread cookie appears around the world, but with local twists

Humble shortbread cookie appears around the world, but with local twists


Blanche Shaheen/Special to the Town Crier
Ghraybeh shortbread cookies use sweet-tasting ghee in lieu of butter.

 

When Americans think of the shortbread cookie, they often imagine the traditional Scottish cookies, shaped like oblong rectangles and ...

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Your Health

CSA connects families with fresh, nutritious food

CSA connects families with fresh, nutritious food


Courtesy of Community Services Organization
CSA staff load groceries to take to Castro Elementary School as part of a new outreach program for children and families enrolled in the free and reduced lunch programs at Castro and Mistral schools.

Maureen...

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Your Home

Healing art: Restoration 'doctor' preserves damaged objects

Healing art: Restoration 'doctor' preserves damaged objects


Photos by Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Art restorer Rho Brown performs delicate preservation work in her Los Altos studio, above. Once fully restored, below left, it’s difficult to tell which cherub was previously missing its head. Brown’s studio conta...

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On The Road

American muscle in the modern age: Bolting to Blackhawk in the Chrysler 300S

American muscle in the modern age: Bolting to Blackhawk in the Chrysler 300S


Photo by Gary Anderson/Special to the Town Crier; Bottom Right Photo courtesy of Chrysler
The Andersons recently drove the new Chrysler 300S to Danville’s Blackhawk Museum, where they saw “The Spirit of the Old West” exhibition.

 

When you have a p...

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Senior Lifestyles

Local pianist performs, volunteers and finds 'keys' to a good life

Local pianist performs, volunteers and finds 'keys' to a good life


RAMYA KRISHNA/TOWN CRIER
Doreta Strotman performs the classics with her signature jazz-style improvisations at Los Altos Grill Sunday evenings. The Mountain View resident has been playing since the age of 4.

Sunday evenings, Doreta Strotman’s job is to...

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Wedding To Remember

Ring options on Main Street range from traditional to unorthodox

Ring options on Main Street range from traditional to unorthodox


 

With nine fine-jewelry retailers concentrated along the Main Street corridor, downtown Los Altos offers a wealth of options for engagement and wedding ring shoppers. From one end of Main to the other, the choices range from the traditional to t...

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Your Kids

Living Classroom grows lessons for next-gen science standards

Living Classroom grows lessons for next-gen science standards


 

Providing local students with a tangible outdoor learning experience, the Living Classroom program aims to support a new generation of students who are excited about the environment.

The Living Classroom serves 9,000 students locally in the Los ...

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Back to School

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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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