A young artist transforms vision into music

A painted violin to benefit New Jersey Symphony Orchestra

By: Emily Craighead
   Although he dabbled in percussion in junior high school, occasionally plays the electric bass and doesn’t consider himself much of a musician, Adam Natoli made a timeless contribution to music education.
   His vision of music as the universal language, painted onto the body of an unfinished violin, will be on display in New Jersey during the next several months before being auctioned off with nine other student-created violins to benefit music education in public schools.
   The program, Art Strings, has been a fundraiser for the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra since 2002. In previous years, prominent New Jersey artists have created artwork using violins as their canvas for Art Strings.
   Selected by his art teachers at West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North for the project, Adam, a junior, started with an unvarnished violin missing the strings, pegs and bridge. The only guideline he had to follow was that the finished piece of artwork needed to fit inside a violin case.
   "I really wanted it to make a statement," Adam said.
   "When music dies, pigs will fly" seemed like the perfect theme, but wings of clay or another material wouldn’t have fit into a violin case.
   The idea he settled on, illustrating music as the universal language, reflects an important aspect of the West Windsor-Plainsboro community.
   "Our school is very diverse," Adam said. "A lot of people like the same music, no matter where you’re from in the world. It’s another way to come together."
   From his classmates, he collected the word "music" in nearly a dozen different languages, including two different Indian dialects, as well as Italian and Arabic.
   The finished violin features the continents wrapped around the body and the word "music" painted over and over in the different languages. Along the sides, Adam painted flags from countries around the world.
   On Saturday, Adam showed off his work to family and friends when his violin went on display at the New Jersey Center for Visual Art in Summit. The 10 violins created for Art Strings 2006 will tour the state for the next few months.
   Jane Craven, Adam’s painting and drawing teacher at High School North, said Adam was chosen to design the violin based on merit, and he has used the project as an opportunity to develop his skills.
   "He has a lot of drive and a lot of different ideas," Ms. Craven said. "He likes to make statements and he’s still exploring how to do that. It’s nice to see him use this vehicle to help him find a voice."
   Adam is critical of his work, a sign perhaps of artistic accomplishment seeking perfection.
   "I’m looking at it through the creating eyes, so I’m looking at the little pieces that are wrong, not the whole piece," Adam said.
   Life without art would be unimaginable for Adam.
   "I always want to do it. I don’t care if I make money off of it, but I want people to see it," he said.
   This experience has encouraged Adam to seek other outlets to show his work, and to help other artists find new outlets as well.
   "I want people to know there is a way they can get their artwork out there for people to see," Adam said. "I don’t like how you have to have the name to go with the art."