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News & Stories: 2007-08

Phil McMillan plays with heart and soulJune 10, 2008

When Philip McMillan ‘08 was five years old he went to a child-friendly Pittsburgh Symphony concert and decided that he wanted to play the violin. His parents thought it was cute, but violins are expensive and they figured he would forget about it in a few days.

When Philip McMillan was six years old he requested only one thing for Christmas: a violin. His parents then thought, “What normal six year old only wants a violin for Christmas?” McMillan began taking lessons on his new violin a few days after Christmas. He hasn’t stopped since.


Listen to Phil play a selection from The Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D Major, op. 77, Allegro non troppo by Johannes Brahms at his spring 2008 recital.


At Calvin, McMillan majored in violin performance and music composition.  After auditioning for graduate studies at Temple University, Boston University, Peabody School of Music and Manhattan School of Music, he accepted an offer to study music at Boston University, which he deferred until the fall of 2009.

Phil McMillan '08 plays his violin"I haven't been at Calvin very long, but I can't help but think he is one of the most accomplished performers to come through this program,” said David Reimer, professor of music.  “He has tremendous ability that is still emerging.”

While Calvin graduates only two to three performance majors a year, this was the ideal place for him, according to McMillan. “I wanted to go to a Christian, liberal arts college with an orchestra,” he said. “That narrowed it down to just a few choices.”

Phil McMillan's violin from Calvin's Cayvan CollectionAfter coming to Calvin’s campus and hearing the orchestra perform, McMillan chose Calvin. "I don’t regret not going to a conservatory,” he said. “I’ve gotten comments from my auditions that I’m very musical.  I think that has been promoted by the liberal arts. Calvin produces more well-rounded music majors. They might not be technically perfect, but there’s heart and soul in it.”

During his education at Calvin, McMillan spent some time in the Czech Republic at a music conservatory. "What was kind of disappointing was the small scope of the conversations there,” he said. “There weren’t the same interesting discussions about a broad range of topics like there is a Calvin. I think that when you stick people in a very competitive and isolated environment, they don’t come out as nice.”

Phil McMillan '08 plays his violin from Calvin's Cayvan CollectionWhile McMillan typically spent 25 hours a week practicing at Calvin, he also found time for other things. "My problem is I like every subject too much. I had been thinking I could also go into computers. That’s why I wanted a liberal arts school; I didn’t have to give up on everything else.”

McMillan was the recipient of the Janice Broekhuizen, Friends of Music and Llewellyn L. Cayvan String Instrument scholarships as well as the Llewellyn L. Cayvan String Instrument Award, which allowed him the use of the Peresson violin, a $35,000 instrument from the Cayvan string instrument collection.

Phil McMillan with his violinHe was able to audition using the Peresson, which provided a confidence boost for him, he said. “I feel like I’ve been able to get the most production out of it,” he said. “Most of the people auditioning at a conservatory have very nice violins. It’s reassuring to know that I’m not playing an inferior violin so that isn’t what would keep me from getting in.”

~by Lynn Rosendale, communications and marketing

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Now, Strings Attached

The end of a violin bestowed to Calvin by Leo Cayvan in the mid-1960s

The Summer 2008 edition of Spark tells the story of how Phil was able to play a $35,000 Peresson violin while he was at Calvin.

Read more