Even on cold winter days, you can find Abby Nixon traveling via bicycle, her violin in tow. She rides to a lot of the concerts she performs as well.
For the past four years, Nixon has been excited to explore Philadelphia on two wheels – even if the temperatures aren’t as warm as her native Florida – and to live in the Germantown neighborhood.
“I think this area is really cool,” she says. “It’s a very integrated community with lots of interesting characters and creative, open-minded people.”
She lives a short distance from the Germantown Branch, but she also bikes to the Wynnefield Branch – over 5 miles from her home – to teach.
The vibrancy of the neighborhood where she both lives and teaches makes it worth sticking close to home, though. “I see my students all over the place,” she says. “It’s so great to be part of a community that isn’t necessarily just musical.”
The musical community in her neighborhood goes beyond Settlement as well. Nixon has worked with a Germantown-based puppet theatre troupe on original music for a series of performances. This also gave her the chance to collaborate musically with her husband Chris, a visual artist in training at Studio Incamminati and a fellow musician who plays guitar and drums.
“I play plugged-in a lot, and I’m interested in exploring all kinds of contemporary music, plus jazz and rock,” she says.
These varied interests lead Nixon to introduce some of her students to non-classical music and to have them explore improvisation on their instruments – in addition to Bach, Paganini and other staples of the violin repertoire. “The challenge is working on something that’s at a proper level,” she says, “so that they don’t get ahead of themselves.”
For her students at Germantown who are making strides musically, she frequently recommends them to play in the Junior or Intermediate Orchestra, both conducted by Anne Parrett. She also regularly seeks out guidance from longtime violin faculty member Lee Snyder.
“He’s such an asset,” Nixon says of Snyder. “Whenever I contact him with a question, he gets back to me really quickly. It’s good to have an opportunity to feel like a student sometimes.”