WILKES-BARRE — Dr. Wil Remigio, associate professor of physical therapy at Misericordia University, doesn’t consider playing violin a hobby.
The 57-year-old full-time professor said the instrument means more to him than that.
“Violin is pretty much an integral part of my life. It’s hard to keep a hobby like that without really seriously studying it every day. It’s an instrument that requires a lot of you,” he explained.
Remigio tries to donate his time to play in public whenever he can. He brings his violin with him when he goes camping, and has made appearances in Public Square during events, such as the farmers market.
“It does elicit a lot of interesting positive reactions from people. I get a feeling that they are somewhat rewarded for just sitting around and listening. And I am too,” he said. “I find it very refreshing that music can do this for us. It’s a magical thing. I can’t really explain it.”
His favorite composer is Johann Sebastian Bach, but he tries to play more accessible things when performing in public.
“I want to play things that people can connect with very easily … this is the difference between you reading some poetry to someone, versus reading a discourse by Socrates or Plato,” he said.
So rather than play hefty pieces by Bartok or Stravinsky, Remigio sticks to things like movie themes — themes from Titanic, Schindler’s List or Dances with Wolves, for instance — that the general public can immediately connect with.
“It is very rewarding when you can play with some emotion. You’re not playing just notes, you’re making music,” he said. “That’s what people connect with … the music as the language of emotion. Music as the expression of something that is in every human being,” he said.
“I think Wilkes-Barre, like many other cities and towns across the country, we need to re-humanize the events downtown and bring more of this expression and remind people that they do have that thing. People are not hardened. People are emotive, and music draws this out of some people,” he continued.
Remigio said that he is inspired to encourage young people to pay attention to music.
“Many times when I’m playing, parents stop with their kids. I get that kids are very drawn to the music, because kids are very sensitive people,” he said.
He shared an experience he had at his first performance at Mondays at the Market on Public Square, where a boy Remigio estimated to be about 11 years old sat on a rock and intently watched him play.
“Forty minutes later, he came up to me and asked me to play Für Elise,” Remigio said. Für Elise is a famous piano composition by Ludwig Van Beethoven, not traditionally performed on the violin.
“I said, ‘this is not something I play, but I’ll play it just for you,’ and I played it just for him. He was so delighted,” Remigio said.
Remigio began playing violin where he grew up in Ceará, Brazil, at age 11. He learned as part of a project by an organization, which immediately put him in a string orchestra with other young beginners.
“That’s how I learned, in the orchestra. There were no private lessons. Private lessons didn’t come until much later,” he explained.
Remigio has been a full-time professor for six years, and has taught at Misericordia for three years. He said that he has not been playing violin as much since he has lived in the area, putting much of his focus on teaching.
Remigio has a daughter named Ana Caroline, who is a family nurse practitioner in California, and a son, also named Wil, who is a student at Temple University. He said that they are both artistic and empathetic.
Ana Caroline plays violin and guitar. Wil Jr. is a great artist, his father said, who paints and draws. “He is a creative mind who blows everyone away,” Remigio said.
Remigio’s son also coordinates a tutoring program at Temple for underprivileged students in Philadelphia, he said.
Ana Caroline was married last December. Her husband is applying to medical school in Chile.
“He is very intelligent, and a very good guy. He calls me dad,” Remigio beamed.
Remigio said he doesn’t play to make money, but accepts tips to pay for gas or positive booklets to give out for free while he’s playing.
Those interested in seeing Remigio perform can keep an eye out at Wilkes-Barre public events — but should know that he rarely plans his appearances in advance.