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Main Street violinists exhibit power of music through pandemic

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Franklin violinists

Isaiah Mitchell busking at the corner of 4th Avenue North and Main Street in Franklin on Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2020. He and roommate Jerome Eulentrop trade off playing the violin for passersby.

On any given night, you may hear the melody of a violin wafting through the air on Franklin’s Main Street.

Passersby stop and stare, recording video of a young man busking with his violin. Many drop cash into his case. Some have dropped rare old coins, gift cards and even a few phone numbers from admirers.

Some may not know there are two buskers, Isaiah Mitchell and Jerome Eulentrop, roommates living in Antioch. The young men help pay their rent by trading off duties playing for the crowds of Franklin.

Mitchell, 26, is a native of Cookeville. He moved to Nashville to work in the music industry and previously lived in Franklin. 

Upon the suggestion of his father, who plays guitar, Mitchell began taking violin lessons at age 14. He began driving to Nashville once a week for lessons and playing and practicing up to four hours a day while taking extra college credits towards a degree in mechanical engineering.

Instead of getting a college internship, Mitchell asked his violin teacher for a job. He didn’t return to college and worked for the music management company for the next 3.5 years. He began busking full-time last fall.

For Mitchell, busking began as a way to work out nerves while playing new pieces in front of a crowd. He was surprised when some people gave him money. 

“The more I did it, the more I realized this is predictable,” he said. 

A self-described entrepreneur, he began to track the amount he was making. 

“I got to the point where the responsible thing was actually to quit my job,” he said.

Eulentrop, 20, is from St. Louis and moved to Nashville in February. He grew up in a large family of musicians and began playing violin at age 5. He has some prior busking experience, including performing outside Busch Stadium during St. Louis Cardinals games with his siblings. He has hopes for a career in music and is currently recording several originally composed pieces in Franklin.

Mitchell and Eulentrop met through their Nashville teachers about five years ago when both were commuting for lessons. 

People seem to appreciate the mood the violin creates in the historic setting Franklin offers, Mitchell said. 

“There’s something magical about it,” he said. 

To Mitchell, music is “some kind of combination of a story and emotion.” He tries to read the street’s mood when playing. 

“I try to play music that connects me and what I’m feeling on the street,” he said.

One of the great benefits of the street is meeting so many different types of people and touching spirits.

Eulentrop and Mitchell described people moved to tears while sharing stories of how the music has touched them. 

“The street really doesn’t discriminate,” Mitchell said. “It has successful people and people who are just scraping by. It has city people and country people, and Tennessee natives, and people moving from California, New York, Colorado.”

They recognize the local spirit of giving as well. Through the COVID-19 pandemic, Mitchell and Eulentrop have seen a lot of support from Franklin natives. 

“[When the spring lockdown began], it felt like a ghost town,” Mitchell said. “There was almost an unspoken agreement among all the locals that, OK, we’re going to take care of them during the lockdown.” 

Typically, people don’t stop their cars to give buskers money, but it happened to both men several times in the spring.

“They’d say something like, ‘Thanks for the encouragement, we’re so glad you’re out here to keep people’s spirits up,’” Mitchell said.

“It was really cool to see people notice us in a different way,” Eulentrop agreed. “People made up for the lack of foot traffic in a lot of ways. That was a huge blessing.”

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