College Bound: Will Fiddle For Tuition

The high, rapid strains of fiddle music filled the air outside the Raley’s market on Hartnell Avenue in Redding Wednesday afternoon. Not canned Muzak. Real fiddle music. Loud and clear.

Under the shade of the store’s awning stood the source of the live concert, Jesse Brazil, 19, of Redding. He held his bow lightly with his right hand and cradled his fiddle firmly with his left as his long fingers raced up and down the strings of his instrument.

The temperatures pushed 100 degrees outside as shoppers walked into and out of the store. Some paused to listen to Brazil, others kept walking, yet others crouched down to drop money into Brazil’s open violin case, dotted with mostly $1-dollar bills. A hand-lettered sign explained everything: “For the Master’s College Tuition.”

Brazil, a college sophmore who lives with his grandparents, Laurel and Marcia Brazil of Redding, said he tried to get a summer job to earn money for school, but he lucked out.

“It’s a tough economy,” he said. “I couldn’t find a job.”

That’s when he created his own luck, and turned to his fiddle as a way to help pay for his tuition at the Master’s College in Santa Clara where he’ll resume studies in August. He’s played since he was 9.

He set up his display, which includes not just his violin-case-turned-donation box, but he also sells CDs of his fiddling for $15 each. Brazil said so far, the stores have been kind enough to let him stay and play, under one condition.

“You have to sound good; people have to like you,” he said. “Otherwise someone would complain and I’d have to go. But so far, no complaints.”

In fact, Brazil said he hears lots of comments; all positive.

“They’ll tell me I sound good,” he said. “And some people cry, because music can move you. Sometimes when I’m playing I feel like crying. I’m moved, too.”

He said some people seem surprised to see him, all 6-feet-6-inches tall, playing his fiddle for hours on end, in the heat of the summer. And he’s noticed that not a day goes by that someone doesn’t say how happy they are to see him fiddle for money, rather just hold up a sign and ask for cash.

“Lots of people tell me, ‘At least you’re working.”

Work he does, six hours a day, every day except Sunday. He’s a self-appointed street musician who performs outside strip-mall stores, such as the Raley’s grocery store on Lake Boulevard, Ross’ Dress for Less on Hilltop Drive or the Raley’s on Hartnell Avenue, where he played late Wednesday afternoon.

His daily goal is $100. So far, the most he’s ever earned in one day is $375. And even his worst day didn’t turn out so bad in the end, becuase on the night he’d not earned a dime outside the Raley’s on Lake Boulevard, things picked up as he headed back to his car, feeling slightly discouraged.

As he took a break between songs to talk Wednesday, his bright blue eyes sparkled as he grinned at the memory. “I found $40 on the ground,” he said. “That made me pretty happy.”

For now, his focus is on getting enough money for school next month, and continuing his music major studies with an emphasis on audio technology. But Brazil’s already planning beyond that, and knows exactly where he wants to be.

“The dream beyond college is to become famous someday,” he said. “I would love to place high at the Weiser Idaho Contest.”

But first, he has many more tunes to play, and people to meet, and classes to take and tuition dollars to earn.

One note at a time.

Independent  online journalist Doni Greenberg founded what’s now known as in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic.  Prior to 2007 Greenberg was an award-winning newspaper opinion  columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press,  the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She  lives in Redding, CA.

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
Comment Policy: We welcome your comments, with some caveats: Please keep your comments positive and civilized. If your comment is critical, please make it constructive. If your comment is rude, we will delete it. If you are constantly negative or a general pest, troll, or hater, we will ban you from the site forever. The definition of terms is left solely up to us. Comments are disabled on articles older than 90 days. Thank you. Carry on.

26 Responses

  1. Avatar Karen C says:

    Now there is a young man who is going to go places. Good for you Jesse!

  2. Avatar Sandy Tincher says:

    So great to see such a talented young man and one that uses his brain to figure out how to earn some college money by using his gift for fiddling. I wish him all the luck in reaching his goals.

  3. Jesse, I am so proud of you for playing your wonderful music for all to hear and enjoy. I am one lucky Grandmother…

  4. Avatar Chrisie Lim says:

    Jesse – you still sound great! Keep fiddling for the Lord! We will see you back in Santa Clarita in August. We've missed you!

  5. Avatar Bernadette says:

    Neat kid. I tip him often! Shame on Target for NOT allowing him and others to play out front. Yeah to Raley's on Lake Blvd! Guess where we shop!

  6. Avatar Jan says:

    I really believe in this guy! Love that he is willing to work for some $, he sounds great & I love supporting someone who is working hard to better himself. Keep at it Jesse!

  7. Avatar Jesse Brazil says:

    Thank you everyone for all the kind comments. Today July 22, I will be over at Ross at about 10am til 12pm with lunch break around 12-12:30. From there I'll be playing at Raleys on Hartnell starting about 1:30-2pm and til 4 or 5. After that, I will head over to Lake Blv. to eat dinner and play at the Raleys there for the remainder of the day.

    I have another gig at 7-9pm at a ladies house, which I still need to find out more. Doni, I heard you might be there? Thank you for the support friends.

  8. Avatar Jackie Huitt says:

    Jesse you are so cool!!! God has blessed you with an amazing talent 😀 never stop playing!!!

  9. Avatar Canda says:

    What a great story of an inspiring young man. Your music is beautiful, and there's no doubt you'll achieve all your goals. Good for you, Jesse!

  10. Avatar Jesse Brazil says:

    Thank you Canda:)

  11. Avatar Louise Tuthill says:

    Doni, Such a touching story. Jesse will no doubt go far in world.

  12. Avatar Adrienne jacoby says:

    Jesse, GOOD ON YOU!! Remember, music ALWAYS opens doors. I wish street musicians were more acceptable in this country. My daughter lived in Vienna to attend the conservatory there when she was 17. Anytime she wanted to attend a concert or make a trip, she would earn the money by playing on the street. She did the same thing when she studied in italy. I make it a practice to ALWAYS support street musicians. I'll try to stop by. And good luck with your aspirations in Weiser. That is an experience well worth having!!!

    • Avatar Jesse Brazil says:

      Thank you Adrienne, Yes music does invent a lot of opportunity for many different things. I hope I make it to Weiser again. That's neat that your daughter was a musician. What did she play?

  13. Avatar Pamela says:

    This makes me smile! It's so nice to hear good news about a young man using his creativity to find his way. Wishing him all the best…

  14. Avatar Gary says:

    Jesse, I really enjoy your playing on Sunday at the Cow Creek Church. You add that special touch to the band while were singing hyms.

  15. Avatar Kim says:

    Jesse, You have a way of making people Smile! I know that God has blessed us when he blessed you with your talent. I have heard you at Cow Creek Community Church in Palo Cedro. Thank you. I think God is smiling too! 🙂

  16. Avatar David says:

    Jesse, God has made you a blessing to many. Don't ever forget that! Always keep Christ before your eyes & if you continue to play for Him, you will always minister to others. Attempt great things with your music for Christ & expect great things from Christ. He has given you talents that can serve others & provide for your own needs, and for this you are truly blessed.

  17. Dugan Barr Dugan Barr says:


    Any chance you could print a mailing address for this enterprising young man. That way those of us who had the bad luck to either miss his performance or be without a jingle in our jeans when we did see him can kick in, if for no other reason that he is enterprising and this kind of street music is a thing of beauty that should be encouraged.

  18. OK, as per Dugan's request, here is Jesse's mailing address for those who'd like to contribute to his college fund:

    Jesse Brazil mailbox 1132

    The Master's College

    21726 Placerita Cyn Rd

    Santa Clarita CA 91321-1200

    • Avatar Jesse Brazil says:

      Thank you Donni, and I appreciate all the help I have received so far. It helps me get just a bit closer to going back the next semester.

  19. Avatar Jesse Brazil says:

    I have a new mailing address for those of you who would like to stay in touch:)

    24711 Magic Mountain Parkway apt 2332

    Valencia California, 91355