It’s 6:15PM on Thursday, March 20th and Canary in the Coalmine is taking the stage during the One Spark Town Hall meeting at the Florida Theatre. The band is front-lined by the beautiful Jessica Pounds and Sandra Wicker, who reel in men and women alike with their folky, siren charm. The remaining pieces of the band are almost lost in the enchantment but deliver with energy and sound that is equally crucial. One of those members is 52-year-old Philip Pan and his violin.
Philip Pan is the Concertmaster for the Jacksonville Symphony and has been with the symphony since 1984. The Concertmaster, according to the Jax Symphony, “is the primary artistic liaison between the conductor and the orchestra.” He dedicates much of his time to his music, appearing not only with the Jacksonville Symphony but the Boston Pops, Albany and Schenectady Symphonies as well as the Bach Aria Festival. He has also partnered with several youth programs to introduce and encourage a different kind of music.
He began playing piano at the age of six and first picked up the violin when he was eight. His music interest was transferred from his parents, his dad also playing the violin and his mom piano and singing. “There was always music playing in the house; radio, records, and live [music],” says Pan. His sister was already a really good pianist so he devoted his talents to the violin.
Pan knew he was doing something special at the age of 13 when he was playing Danny Boy for a ladies music club and first realized he “had the room.” Another moment was when Henry Mancini, famous for his movie scores and compositions in blockbuster’s such as The Godfather and The Pink Panther, told Pan “you’ve really got it,” just after he played his theme from The Godfather. He has dedicated his next 40 years to his craft, going as far as building his home to fit his needs with a dedicated music building.
Now you may think a 52-year-old man that is a concertmaster for the symphony and a world-class violinist may be a bit boring but as you’ve heard, don’t judge a book by its cover. Pan also likes to rock. He has recorded and appeared with artists such as JJ Gray and Mofro, Jackson Vegas, Grandpa’s Cough Medicine, and of course Canary in the Coalmine. He says there is a myth about the non-classical music that he does being easy or just a hobby, “Just the opposite,” he says. “It’s much harder because I don’t have 40 plus years of experience behind me and I always seek professional standards.”
Pan also has a prominent tattoo on his left arm. Written in Sanskrit, the ink translates to “joy inspired” and serves as a constant reminder of his biggest goal. That goal is to capture people’s hearts and souls with music. Every time he picks up his violin he sees it and thinks, “If music doesn’t bring joy through inspiration, then it’s time to do something else.”
Our subject also has a taste for custom cars, motorcycling, and alpine skiing. He is a student of Tai-chi Chuan and enjoys running. When asked what one other thing people should know about him is, he says “I really dislike wearing shoes! I mean no disrespect or even informality by it but I’ll go barefoot whenever I get the chance, whether it is hiking in the mountains or running a 5k.
Conclusion? Philip Pan is an asset to the city of Jacksonville and its music scene. He is far more than first glance. He is a badass.