Violinist who suffered burns works to recover

first_imgEwart, 48; his children, Michael, now 16, Jonathan, 14, and Heather, 10; and his parents, Hugh, 82, a retired concertmaster, and Esther Ewart, 77, awakened to the terrifying sounds of fire. They escaped through a second-story window and onto a balcony. Neighbors awoke to screaming; one tried in vain to douse the fire with a garden hose. They tended to the injured and frightened family members till help arrived. David Ewart suffered severe burns over about a third of his body and was kept on a respirator that helped his smoked-damaged lungs function. He was in an induced coma for 32 days. He didn’t practice his violin for two months, his longest lapse since he was 6. “I woke up aware that I might die, and acutely aware that I might not be able to play, to use my gift,” he said. For weeks he couldn’t see well enough to read music, likely a result of the trauma, he said. When his sight returned and he finally played, it was to correct a beginner student – and he found he couldn’t play as well as the youngster Hugh Ewart, concertmaster emeritus of the Portland Symphony, was also burned, but less severely. Father and son played at Easter services in Oregon a piece the elder Ewart rewrote as a duet. Hugh Ewart straps a small pillow under his arm when he plays, to protect a shoulder injured in the fire. After Easter services, he played at an “old-folks home,” his son said. He had forgotten the pillow but found a stuffed Easter bunny that he hid under his jacket to manage his injury. “He’s just incredible,” Ewart said. “He’s really something.” Michael Ewart, a soccer goalie for Hart High School’s junior varsity team, suffered serious burns, too, and continues with therapy five days a week. He has a long way to go, his father said, but has the strength to do it. Ewart himself is a studio musician whose performances are featured on more than 800 recordings by artists ranging from Neil Diamond, Ricky Martin and Elvis Costello to the soundtracks for movies such as “Spider-Man 2,” “The Notebook” and “Million Dollar Baby.” The business, he said, is cutthroat. “When I go back, I want to be in such good shape that instead of them saying, `He’ll never be the same after those burns,’ they say `Maybe we should all get burned.’ ” Ewart undergoes therapy three times a week, plus his own exercise regime but has a long way to go to get back to work. “I was worried when it wasn’t clear what could happen,” he said. “I love it. I really love it. It’s my life.” [email protected] (661) 257-5251160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREOregon Ducks football players get stuck on Disney ride during Rose Bowl eventHe and numerous friends who are musicians will play in a 7 p.m. concert Sunday at the College of the Canyons Performing Arts Center, a benefit for the family. Dressed Thursday in jeans and his trademark Hawaiian shirt, Ewart picked up a violin he had as a teen, one he thought also was lost in the Dec. 19 fire. Ann Moore accompanied on piano in the otherwise empty Valencia United Methodist Church sanctuary. They played Chopin’s “Nocturno,” the passionate strains unbelievably beautiful. No warm-up, just liquid silver flowing from the violin Ewart played in high school. The instrument inexplicably was left by his son at Ewart’s former wife’s home, a treasure thought destroyed but found weeks after the fire. Flames destroyed the violin he played in his adult years. It was early morning, a day after the Ewarts held their traditional Christmas party, pulling out all the stops. Weary, the family went to bed upstairs, an unattended candle accidentally left flickering in the dining room below slowly burning down till the flame hit a tablecloth and spread as the Ewarts slept. VALENCIA – His hand cramps from the skin graft that replaced his scorched skin, but violinist David Ewart’s touch is velvet. He said it’ll be a year before he recovers full respiratory function, and that sliding the bow to bring his violin to life is taxing, but his music tells no tale of the nightmare Ewart and his family survived. Ewart has no idea whether he’s regained his full talent in the months since the fire that swept through his family’s Valencia home left permanent scars and turned his prized and priceless violin to ashes. “I guess we’ll find out Sunday,” Ewart said Thursday during a brief rehearsal for his first concert since the fire. last_img

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