Street violinist Alexis Dawdy adds her own touch of classical class to Lansings downtown
In the business district of downtown Lansing, a high-pitched trill of music can be heard floating almost effortlessly through the air. Distant at first, it becomes louder and more distinct as you approach South Washington Square. As you turn around the corner, your eyes find the source of the music: a young woman wearing striped stockings, a short black dress and a lacey petticoat, solemnly performing classical violin pieces for anyone willing to listen.
This may not sound like a sight one would expect to encounter in the career-oriented atmosphere that is iconic of Michigan’s capital, but Alexis Dawdy and her violin have become as much a part of the weekday ambiance as professionals in business suits and political rallies.
Dawdy, 22, has been playing the violin for 17 years. She has also performed in numerous orchestral groups, including eight years in the Lansing Junior Symphony, two years as concertmaster in the Mid Michigan Youth Symphony, and performances with the Lansing Matinee Musical, the Greater Lansing Symphony Orchestra and the Mason Orchestral Society.
However, many simply know her as the street violinist.
Her history as a busker began in her hometown of Charlevoix when she was 14. She wanted to find a job, but no one was willing to hire someone so young, so she decided to take matters into her own hands. She got dressed up in a pair of striped stockings and a beret, grabbed her violin and started playing outside in the middle of the city.
“My parents laughed at me,” Dawdy recalls. “They thought it was ridiculous, and they gave me an hour. They said, ‘We’ll be waiting in the pizza place,’ and an hour later, I had $30, and my dad was knocked over when I opened my violin case, because 30 one-dollar bills looks a little bit impressive.”
Her instant success led to many repeat performances for summer tourists in Charlevoix, But for the past year, Dawdy has focused her efforts on Lansing instead in order to keep her violin skills sharp and make money to help pay for her college education at Michigan State University.
Around the time she began performing in Lansing, she was going through some personal hardships, but she said she always looked forward to playing because it was “one of the only things that really made my life feel right,” and that her experiences have had a tremendous positive impact on her.
“Really, this has changed my life,” the violinist said with a smile as she recalled some of her experiences. “I met my boyfriend doing this, and he’s one of the best things that ever happened to me.”
Dawdy said that she loves her job and all the people she meets. She plans on continuing her midday concerts indefinitely. However, there is one thing aside from her music that she wishes she could share with everyone.
“I really do want to say thank you every time somebody tips me,” she said. “When people walk by, I oftentimes cannot say that I really appreciate what they are doing for me to help pay for books and school.”