Studio Visit: Claire Cannon


Listen to this article

Studio visit is a Q&A with a local artist. Here, Melissa Merli chats with Claire Cannon, 25, a musician and music instructor who is part of the Duke of Uke and his Novelty Orchestra as well as other local bands.

Q: Are you still going to move to New Orleans later this month?

A: Sure am. It's unclear who will be coming along (from Duke of Uke and His Novelty Orchestra). Anna (Hochhalter) is not; she got a job in Chicago. So it's probably me, Dave (King) and Lorene Anderson.

Q: How will the group keep going?

A: We're just going to meet in the middle for gigs. We've got a possible gig in Champaign over the holidays. For things like that, we have what we call band camp: we get together and rehearse for three days.

Sarah Cramer, our bass player, has been doing pharmacy school in Chicago. With her up there, we have to follow that model a little bit.

Q: Will the band be playing down in New Orleans?

A: I'm not sure. Part of my goal is to hit the New Orleans music scene in a kind of subtle way.

Q: Did you ever finish your bachelor's in violin performance at the University of Illinois?

A: No. With performing, it comes down to whether you can play or not. And you hear a lot of musicians say, "Music school ruined my music."

Q: Weren't you studying classical violin?

A: Yes. After one semester, it didn't work out. I was going to pick general ed and thought about psychology and then just took two years off. Then I went back for music education. Then I decided, "This isn't really for me. I'll design my own major." Then I dropped out; clearly there's something inside of me that doesn't want to be in school.

Q: Did you move here to go to school or to live with your dad (the late Ron Cannon)?

A: I came here for school. He and my mom actually met down here and got married at Channing-Murray and then his band, Big Daddy Sun and the Outer Planets, moved up to Chicago in the mid-'80s. They had me there and when I was 3 we moved to St. Charles.

Q: Was Ron a big influence on you musically?

A: I think subconsciously, yes, absolutely. I think if anything he will be something I carry, in a good way, like a musical inspiration. I don't think I'll ever play a gig without thinking of him.

Q: How long have you played violin?

A: I started when I was around 7, so 18 years. I also play saxophone and a bunch of other instruments — piano, guitar, cello, bass. But I'm not awesome at them; I can make relatively coherent sounds on them. Trumpet is one I really like but that's one you have to keep up with.

Q: So violin is your bread-and-butter instrument?

A: Yeah, that's what I've been playing the longest, but the sax is my second love. Because I played clarinet, saxophone came really easy to me.

I actually played clarinet in Carnegie Hall because we had a great band director, Jim Kull, in high school. He got us into a youth concert series at Carnegie Hall.

Q: Where did you go to high school?

A: St. Charles East.

Q: What bands do you play with here besides Duke of Uke?

A: The Curses and Wagon Fire. Michael Shapiro and I also do Irish fiddle tunes. We've never played gigs, but we have played at the Urbana Hootenanny.

Q: Do you prefer any one genre?

A: I love them all, but gypsy jazz is probably my favorite to play because it's insanely challenging. You really have to be on your toes. I tend to steer away from genre music, but gypsy jazz is so good.

Q: Don't you teach at the Community Center for the Arts (C4A)?

A: I've been doing that for six years, with a little time off here and there. I teach violin and early childhood music and the BowDacious String camp over the summers. This was my second year doing the camp and I just love it. It's an amazing program, and Robin Kearton (founder of C4A) is a goddess. I like C4A; it's like a dream school.

Editor's note: Duke of Uke and His Novelty Orchestra, Wagon Fire, Curses, Black Coffee Friday, and Tom Turino and friends will play a "good-bye" gig from 5 p.m. to closing time on Friday at The Iron Post, 120 S. Race St., U.