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Your Chicago: Honoring Violinist Maud Powell

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Rob Johnson Rob Johnson
Rob Johnson is the weekday anchor of the CBS 2 Chicago evening...
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(CBS) – On Sunday, the best in music will take a bow at the GRAMMY Awards on CBS.

One Illinois woman will be receiving an honorary GRAMMY for her trailblazing work as a talented violinist.

You may not have heard of the honoree, but chances are you’ve heard of the woman who suggested her for the prestigious award.

CBS 2’s Rob Johnson reports.

Listening to virtuosa Rachel Barton Pine play the violin is nothing short of magical.

The 39-year-old Chicagoan is in high demand, traveling the world with her husband and 2-year-old girl, bringing listening pleasure to her legion of fans.

But who is Rachel’s inspiration? Why, it’s Maud Powell.

Who?

“Maud Powell lived from 1867 to 1920, and she was America’s first internationally acclaimed violin soloist. During her lifetime, she was the greatest woman violinist in the world as well as the greatest American violinist of either gender,” Rachel explains.

Rachel would know: She has Maud memorabilia aplenty, from a plaster cast of her right hand to a picture next to Maud’s statue in her idol’s hometown of Peru, Illinois.

But it was more than Maud’s music that Rachel admires.

“She was the first white instrumentalist of any instrument to champion the works of black composers,” she says.

Rachel is such a fan she wrote a letter to the Recording Academy suggesting her for an honorary award, and within months she had the answer.

As for Rachel, she’s still a heavy metal devotee. Just take a look at her violin case. But she’s a master of her violin, circa 1742, playing pieces like Maud’s “Deep River.”

Rachel and the head of the Maud Powell Society will be front and center when Maud’s award is presented Saturday night.

Rachel says Maud will get a brief mention, along with the other earlier award winners, on the GRAMMY broadcast Sunday.

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