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Musician Merges Twin Passions: Baseball, Violin

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Musician Merges Twin Passions: Baseball, Violin

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Musician Merges Twin Passions: Baseball, Violin

Musician Merges Twin Passions: Baseball, Violin

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  • Transcript

Baseball fan and fiddler Glenn Donnellan merged his two passions into one instrument. It's a baseball bat that plays like a violin. Or perhaps a violin that looks like a baseball bat. Either way, he talks about his creation — and plays for host Melissa Block.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

We have a guest in our studios today who has brought in a very cool musical instrument, Glenn Donnellan, violinist with the National Symphony Orchestra here in Washington. And Glenn, play us a little something to give us a hint.

(Soundbite of song "Take Me Out to the Ball Game")

BLOCK: It sounds an awful lot like a violin, looks suspiciously like a baseball bat. What have you got there?

Mr. GLENN DONNELLAN (Violinist, National Symphony Orchestra): It is a baseball bat. It's a Louisville Slugger that I picked up at a sporting goods store and made it into a violin.

BLOCK: Yeah, you have the business end of the bat under your chin.

Mr. DONNELLAN: Yeah.

BLOCK: There's a beer - foam beer…

Mr. DONNELLAN: Beer coozie.

BLOCK: Yeah, for your chin rest.

Mr. DONNELLAN: Uh-huh.

BLOCK: You've got tuning pegs drilled into the - pretty much the sweet spot. There's a little hole cut out of the center of the bat, and the strings go most of the way down the length of the bat.

Mr. DONNELLAN: Mm-hmm. I left enough room at the end so you can swing it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DONNELLAN: That was the whole plan. I wanted to still be able to use it.

BLOCK: And you've got the electric bat.

Mr. DONNELLAN: It's the electric bat.

BLOCK: And why is there an electric bat?

Mr. DONNELLAN: Well, the National Symphony has young persons concerts that we do every year. We bus in kids from Montgomery County or Fairfax school system. And they were doing a science and music program, wanted me to play some electric fiddle examples because they know that I do fiddling and so they thought I'd be someone that might be happy to give that a shot.

So I did. And then at subsequent programs, the same fiddle wasn't available to the symphony, and I don't own one, so I thought I've either got to spend $1,000 to get one that's nice or make my own.

BLOCK: And you made your Major League Baseball debut this weekend here in Washington at the Nationals game.

Mr. DONNELLAN: Yeah.

BLOCK: You played the national anthem. How did it go?

Mr. DONNELLAN: It was fun. It was a lot of fun, yeah.

BLOCK: Good crowd response?

Mr. DONNELLAN: Great crowd response, yeah. When I went out into the crowd, everyone that I went by wanted a picture of it or were asking me questions or congratulating. You know, it was - they were really receptive, so that was fun.

BLOCK: You know, do you get so used to playing the bat that when you go and pick up your violin, it feels kind of strange?

Mr. DONNELLAN: It does. And what's really weird was getting used to the bat because when you go up higher and higher to get higher notes, the bat gets really wide compared to a violin. It's suddenly like you're playing a string bass under your chin, and your fingers want to expand and get wider since your thumb is going farther away from the hand on the other side of the bat, and so it becomes very tricky to find the notes and everything, yeah.

BLOCK: Well, take us out with something, Glenn, would you?

Mr. DONNELLAN: Okay.

BLOCK: On your electric bat.

Mr. DONNELLAN: Okay.

BLOCK: Glenn Donnellan with the National Symphony Orchestra.

(Soundbite of song "The Star-Spangled Banner")

BLOCK: You can see a picture of Glenn Donnellan playing his bat violin at npr.org.

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Photo Gallery: Playing The Bat