When violinist Zach Brock was growing up in Lexington, Christmastime always meant playing a lot of music with family and friends.
"This time of year, we would always be playing down around Rupp Arena," Brock says. "We would have this little Christmas concert in front of the Magic Pan in our red violin sweaters and blue pants — our red violin sweaters which were embroidered by none other than Deidre Lyons, Pearse Lyons' wife."
Brock was the same age as their daughter Aoife, and he says they grew up playing violin together. He also sang in the choirs at Christ Church Cathedral and played in the Central Kentucky Youth Orchestras, in addition to performing with a lot of small groups and solo gigs.
"I was pretty much playing all the time," he says.
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Brock, 37, came by music naturally as the grandson of Fred F. Moore, owner of Fred Moore Music Co. His mother, Jenny, is a classically trained singer, and his father, Dan Brock Jr., plays guitar, banjo and trumpet.
This weekend, Brock will get to play with his dad again as the guest soloist on the Lexington Brass Band's annual 'Tis the Season concert. The show, in which he'll be featured with pianist Raleigh Dailey and in a John Jacob Niles arrangement of I Wonder as I Wander, will give the hometown audience a taste of where Brock has taken his violin playing, into the jazz world. It's an interest he credits to his dad.
"I was studying classical violin on one hand, and on the other hand, I was playing in the family folk band — little bit of bluegrass, little bit of folk," Brock says. "My dad's background was as a real jazz buff. He went to high school in New Jersey and got to go into New York to places like the Village Vanguard and hear people like Horace Silver in the actual heyday of this stuff.
"He started working some jazz numbers into one of the versions of the band we had like Sweet Georgia Brown and Oh, Lady Be Good, and he would go out and get me records of like Stéphane Grappelli and Stuff Smith and Jean-Luc Ponty and Joe Venuti."
A big turning point for Brock, who at one point wanted to bag music in favor of pursuing professional skateboarding, was attending the Governor's School for the Arts, where he discovered kindred spirits who didn't necessarily want to follow a straight classical path. He also was struck by the devotion of kids at the Governor's School, a program for artistically gifted Kentucky high school students, who were creating amazing art.
It remotivated him to get serious about violin so he could get into a good college, preferably in an urban setting where he could pursue his jazz interests as well as classical training.
"I didn't really want to go to college to study jazz violin," Brock says. "I wanted to study classical because I figured, 'Well, there are a lot of things I need to attend to in my violin playing, and I don't want to go off and sort of let those things go unattended and regret it later. So I wanted to be somewhere where I could continue my ad hoc jazz education. That's why I moved to Chicago."
At Northwestern University, he studied in the school of music and became a mainstay of jazz clubs before and after graduation. He has since had several groups such as the Magic Number and the Coffee Achievers that have brought him back to Lexington, as well as solo gigs. He laments that there are not more jazz venues in Lexington where he could play and Lexington music fans and musicians could get to know the genre better.
"When I was growing up, there used to be weekly jam sessions I could go to, and people had jam sessions in their houses," Brock says. "It's been harder and harder for me to come back to Lexington and bring what I do professionally."
But he will this weekend, and once the show is over, he's going to take a long break at home with the family. It's easy to imagine more music will be made.