Violinist Emilie Newsome, 11, fiddles to raise funds for animals

Emilie Newsome, 11, plays violin to raise money for the Animal Shelter of Martha's Vineyard. — Photo courtesy of the Newsome fa

Eleven year old Emilie Newsome’s favorite things to do on the Vineyard will be familiar for any summer kid: bike riding, going to see the a cappella group Vineyard Sound, and jumping off the second bridge. But, unlike most kids her age, Emilie has dedicated herself to earning money for the past three summers. Not for herself, but for her favorite Island cause, the Animal Shelter of Martha’s Vineyard.

Since 2011, every evening during the Newsomes’ stay, Emilie has played the violin on the streets of Edgartown and Vineyard Haven to raise money for the shelter. The proceeds from her efforts have totaled more than $1,500. “It’s huge,” says shelter manager Lisa Hayes. “So many young children are hard workers and entrepreneurs. They have raised money for us with lemonade stands, braiding jewelry, and popping popcorn. But this is by far the most any one kid has contributed.”

The Newsomes live in North Carolina and spend two weeks on the Vineyard every summer. According to Emilie, she’s been coming “every year since I was seven weeks old.”

Two years ago, when the Newsome family was staying at the Vineyard Square Hotel and Suites Hotel in Edgartown, Emilie’s mother Lisa was enjoying the view from the hotel roof when she heard violin music wafting up from the street. She suspected that it was Emilie and went to investigate. “I went down right away,” says Ms. Newsome, “and she and her friend were out on the sidewalk. Emilie said, ‘We were bored and we decided we would raise money for the animal shelter for the rest of the week.'”

The hotel was happy to host her, and she’s been playing for summer passersby ever since.

Emilie’s repertoire is varied and very sophisticated for her age. She mixes classical, bluegrass fiddle tunes, and rock and roll. Perhaps her biggest crowd pleaser is “The Final Countdown,” a perennial arena favorite that is familiar to all sports fans. And Emilie plays like a pro. “She was wonderful,” says Vineyard Square general manager Joanne Sardini. “Not only is she mature beyond her years, but she plays beautifully.”

Emilie has been studying violin under the Suzuki method since she was five years old. She prefers classical over other types of music. Her favorite composer? “Vivaldi. It’s hard and it’s fun,” Emilie said. The sixth-grader plays with three different orchestras in her home state, including the Greensboro Symphony Youth Orchestra and a group of young violinists who travel to Europe to play. Emilie practices the violin for an hour every day. Next year she will begin cello lessons.

And she does not limit herself to music. Emilie is involved in sports — swimming and cross-country — and she takes dance lessons. Not surprisingly, the young animal lover has also offered to volunteer at a local pet store in North Carolina.

Her shared passion for animals and music prompted her to start the fundraising efforts. “I wanted to think of a way to make practicing fun,” says Emilie. “I really love animals. I thought the shelter needed money to boost them up.” The Vineyard Square Hotel hosts live music in its courtyard every Tuesday evening in the summer, so it wasn’t much of a stretch for Emilie to think of playing there. She approached the the manager about it. “She’s very mature and polite,” says Ms. Sardini, “The whole family is. They’re favorite repeat guests of ours.”

This past summer, the Newsomes rented a house in Edgartown during the last week in July. “They came by and asked permission for Emilie to play here again and we were very happy to have her,” says Ms. Sardini. During August, when the Newsomes relocated to Vineyard Haven, Emilie moved her operation there, playing in front of the Simon Gallery on Main Street.

“She seemed very earnest,” says Peter Simon. “She wanted to play in front of different stores but wasn’t allowed to. She was not willing to take no for an answer. She came over to my gallery and played her heart out. For a young kid to have that much awareness is remarkable. Anyone who wants to do something for a good cause like that rather that for their own self interest – it’s great.”

Emilie plans to be back again next year, entertaining the dinner crowds outside the Vineyard Square Hotel.

“It was very successful,” says Ms. Sardini. “People just loved it. There are so many people around this area at that time of the evening. We’re happy to support her efforts. How many kids are willing to give up part of their vacation to help out when it’s not even their hometown?”

In a way, Emilie does consider the Vineyard her home. “When I get older I’d like to keep playing the violin, but I’d really like to become a lawyer on Martha’s Vineyard,” says Emilie. “I really just want to move to Martha’s Vineyard.”