"Prodigy" is a word so loaded in classical music it's become downright damning. Today's bright young musical talent becomes tomorrow's also-ran. (Remember shoulder-baring violinist Vanessa Mae or pure-toned English soprano Charlotte Church? Wherever did they disappear to?)

But if prodigy isn't the right word to describe the talents of 14-year-old Beaverton violinist Brandon Garbot, then what is?

"Astounding, amazing and special" are some of the effusions Garbot's private teacher, Oregon Symphony section violinist Clarisse Atcherson, offers on the young musician's exceptional promise. Word is getting out that Garbot's a young string player to keep your eyes and ears on: He makes his professional debut this Sunday as soloist in the Oregon Symphony's Songs of Travel concert.

Meeting Brandon in person, he looks like most other gangly junior-high kids: T-shirt and jeans, white Nike sneakers, glasses. Except that he has impeccably polite manners, beyond-his-years intelligence, and a cased-up Christian Pabst violin slung over one shoulder. And while most other kids his age are digging on Fergie and Britney, Brandon's jamming to Mahler and Messiaen.

What do other kids think of this serious music he's seriously passionate about? "They think it's boring." I bet if they heard Brandon rip up a Paganini Caprice or gallop through a Glazunov concerto (from which he's playing a movement in this Sunday's concert), they'd be just as tuned in.

Atcherson says she's actively cultivating Garbot's talent, specifically as an orchestra concertmaster. Garbot already holds that position with the Portland Youth Philharmonic, and has had coachings with the Symphony's own concertmaster.

Most importantly, Atcherson says Garbot is growing into his own type of musician. He comes into lessons with marks in his sheet music on phrasing and dynamics; he's teeming with ideas. For a recent lesson, he penciled in a series of indications about certain musical passages: "vanilla, raspberry, chocolate, dark chocolate." And when he played, Atcherson could practically taste the flavors leaping off the page.


Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway,

228-1353. 2 pm Sunday, Jan. 6. $8-$39.