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At 93, He's Still Learning and Loving the Violin

Carmen Trotta was ten years old when his mother brought home a violin for him in 1936.

"I don't think I had asked her for a violin, but I am not sure," Trotta remembered. "One day she just gave it to me, and told me I was going to take lessons."

But a squabble with a brother resulted in Trotta using his violin bow as a weapon, breaking it over his brother's head.

"I had only had three or four lessons," Trotta said. "That was the end of my lessons as a child. But I have always kept the violin and the broken bow."

Trotta grew up in Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine neighborhood and settled in Kentucky after he retired in 1984. He now lives in Crestview Hills.

He and his wife Roberta had two children, a son, Greg, and a daughter, Lynn. Greg and his wife, Kathleen, opened a popular restaurant in Dayton known as Trotta's Steak and Seafood.

Carmen Trotta is there six nights a week, driving his own car to work where he greets customers at the door.

He has become a favorite among customers.

Trotta told The River City News that one couple who frequents the restaurant on Sixth Avenue spoke with him, and Trotta mentioned his violin and how he had had it restored. 

"He asked if I play the violin, and I said I had taken a few lessons," Trotta said. He was asked to play for the couple. Trotta wasn't sure he knew how.

The violin's restoration took place six years ago and following that, Trotta resumed his lessons that had first begun during the Great Depression. But Trotta prefers more modern tunes and was only learning classic compositions, so he hung it up again.

But following the couple's request at the restaurant, Trotta visited Wert Music and signed up for new lessons.

Lesley Cissell, who teaches at Wert and also performs with the Kentucky Symphony Orchestra, offered lessons at Trotta's home.

He first learned "Happy Birthday", and then "Fly Me to the Moon" and "Come Back to Sorrento". 

This time around, Trotta found the learning much easier. 

Last month, Trotta was ready for his performance. The couple, Jim and Michelle Whitlock, were back at Trotta's ready to watch.

Carmen Trotta took to the floor on that Saturday night, picked up his bow and restored violin and began to play. He made a few mistakes (he had forgotten to put on his glasses), but the Whitlocks and the rest of the crowd applauded for him.

He played three songs and took a bow.

"I screwed up a little bit," Trotta said. "But it gets better every day! A week ago I couldn't do this!"

Written by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor