Students wowed by Swil Kanim’s life stories Violin virtuoso plays for youths at ancestor’s namesake school

“I’m going to play you a piece that Mozart wrote when he was eight,” Swil Kanim told a room full of teenagers.

  • Wednesday, May 21, 2008 12:00am
  • News

Eighth-grader Ross Tassara greets Swil Kanim following a May 16 assembly at Chief Kanim Middle School. Students were moved by the personal stories and sage advice of the violinist

“I’m going to play you a piece that Mozart wrote when he was eight,” Swil Kanim told a room full of teenagers.

“I’m not going to tell you the name. You should know it. I ‘should’ all over you,” he joked, as he started to play “Pop Goes the Weasel” on his violin, working the instrument the way a star point guard works a basketball. He maneuvered it behind his back and between his legs, at one point tossing the bow in the air, and playing all the while.

Kanim’s mix of silliness, inspirational personal stories, interaction with students and virtuosic violin playing dazzled Chief Kanim Middle School at May 16 assemblies, sponsored by staff and the PTSA.

Eighth graders swarmed the performer after the assembly, thanking him for his visit and asking for hugs.

Students were taken with the man, an indirect descendent of their school’s namesake, who shared with them his stories of learning to play the violin and searching for meaning in life.

“I’ll pass these stories on to my children,” eighth-grader Dylan Shoup said when Kanim asked the crowd what the assembly meant to them.

“Your saying that made the pain in my life worth it,” replied Kanim, obviously moved.

Kanim was invited to present in part because of his name – his ancestors were cousins of Chief Kanim — but mostly because of his message, said co-organizer and school librarian Janna Treisman.

The school has a self-improvement program that aims to teach students “how we make this a better place by being better people,” she said.

Kanim works that theme into his shows by expressing himself through written word and original music. He shared a story about his first visit to a therapist who encouraged him to talk about his childhood. Then he played a powerful song he wrote after that session.

“My intention is to show people no matter what age that the value of self-expression is not selfish. It’s actually an act of generosity for the whole community,” he said.

“We are every one of our mistakes and victories,” he said. “The hurt of one is the hurt of all, and the honor of one is the honor of all.”

In addition to wanting to share Kanim’s message with students, Treisman also wanted them to hear his sheer musical talent.

“His violin is like nothing else you’ve ever heard. It’s original music and it’s incredible,” she said.

Kanim has been playing the violin since fourth grade, and credits a “well-supported music program” at his school with his success. After playing a painfully off version of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” – and waiting for applause – Kanim told students that was how he sounded when he first started playing. His parents asked him to “please practice – just not while we’re home.”

He certainly took their advice to practice. Kanim has gone on to a career as a concert violinist and actor, appearing in the TV series “Northern Exposure,” and Sherman Alexie’s “The Business of FancyDancing.”

• Swil Kanim plays at Miller’s Community & Arts Center in Carnation the first Saturday of every month at 8 p.m. More information is online at

More in News

Washington State Capitol. Photo by Nicole Jennings
Washington may soon teach sexual abuse prevention in schools

The State Legislature is considering training aimed at improving child safety.

Permit approved for disabled adult home in Snoqualmie; public can comment through March 2

The Snoqualmie Hearing Examiner recently approved a conditional use permit for a… Continue reading

Blotter: Man who slept in shower stall creates a commotion; Unruly bar patron exposes himself

Police and fire agencies in the Snoqualmie Valley responded to the following… Continue reading

Stilson Avenue to close Feb. 20-24 for pavement repairs

Stilson Avenue in North Bend (432nd Avenue SE) will be closed Tuesday,… Continue reading

SVSD voters support tax increase in early returns

Snoqualmie Valley School District residents were rejecting two school funding issues in… Continue reading

Snoqualmie Police to host pepper spray defense class for RAD graduates

The Snoqualmie Police Department is now offering self-defense classes with pepper spray… Continue reading

NB Planning Commission reviews recommended changes to city’s tree code Feb. 22

The city of North Bend is proposing amendments to its tree regulations,… Continue reading

Maloney Grove Avenue to close for subdivision work on three separate days, starting Thursday

Partial closures of Maloney Grove Avenue in North Bend can be expected… Continue reading

Kayaker drowned Saturday on Snoqualmie River’s North Fork

A Snohomish County firefighter drowned while kayaking in the Snoqualmie River near… Continue reading

Most Read