Youth picked up violin as toddler

 Messenger photo by Mike Munden

Chase Potter plays violin with his group, The Great Mad Hoax, at Mustard Seed Café  on July 3.

When he was 3 years old, Chase Potter of West Jefferson was fascinated by the strings in an orchestra performance televised on the Public Broadcasting System. He began begging his parents for a violin. A year later, he hadn’t given up, so Mark and Tracy Potter bought their toddler his first musical instrument.

Now, at age 15, Potter is on his eighth violin, plays several other instruments, performs publicly and composes original pieces. He will perform at the London Public Library at 11 a.m. July 25.

Most recently, Potter and his band, The Great Mad Hoax, played to a full house at the Mustard Seed Café in West Jefferson as part of Potter’s participation in the Creative Strings Workshop, which took place June 30-July 6 at Otterbein College in Westerville.  Several workshop instructors played intermittently with the Hoax and as “All Stars” during the second set of the West Jefferson show.

The first set’s play list included “Funky Ol’ Hen,” the familiar sound of “Limehouse Blues,” and “Red Haired Boy” which inspired the audience to clap along.  Potter played sax instead of violin on “Caravan” and delighted the crowd with his original composition, “Blue Jig.”

No genre was out of bounds. The most unusual to the casual listener was the sound of jazz fiddle in “Madame Gypsy.”

Other venues for Potter during the workshop included Dick’s Den and Mozart’s Cafe in Clintonville, and the North Market in Columbus.

Last year, at age 14, Potter was one of the youngest participants in the workshop which is designed for adults and draws participants from around the globe.

Potter began taking lessons at age 4, just two weeks after getting his first violin. After a year and a half, his instructor moved, so Potter found another teacher, Joyce Fishman, who is the second chair violinist with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. Potter took one-hour lessons every Monday with Fishman for about eight years, then joined the Great Mad Hoax in April 2007.

Along the way, he learned to play alto and baritone saxophone at West Jefferson High School. He taught himself drums and picked up the guitar, bass guitar, piano and mandolin.

For three years, Potter performed with the Columbus Youth Jazz Workshop, part of the Columbus Jazz Arts Group.  Through the workshop, he learned about the Hank Marr High School Jazz competition at Fort Hayes High School in Columbus. As a freshman last year, he was an award finalist.

“I’m not big on competitions like some people are,” he said.

Potter also has played baseball for 11 years and makes time for skateboarding and hacky sack. In addition to music, he has a passion for artistic films and enjoys making unusual videos, like his four titles, “Breakfast,” “Brunch,” “Lunch” and “Dinner.” “Breakfast” is a four-minute silent black-and-white piece.

While his influences are “ too many to list,” when asked if he planned on a career in music, Potter said, “I would certainly hope so.” 

After high school, he wants to attend Berklee College of Music in Boston, Mass., “just down the street from Harvard.”  One of the instructors there is Christian Howes, a violinist and graduate of The Ohio State University, a professional performer and creator of the Creative Strings Workshop where Potter is an alumnus.

To hear some of Potter’s music and find a performance schedule, go to

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