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Sea Lion Spotlight of the Week: Meet Andreas Gilson

Andreas Gilson at the Loma Club in April 2023. Photo Credit to Maura Griffin.

With multiple appearances on the violin in Point Loma Nazarene University’s chapel and Musoffee, third-year software engineering major, Andreas Gilson, is a unique and favored performer with a phenomenal talent.

Gilson has been playing the violin for 15 years, beginning private lessons at five years old. 

He comes from a family of violinists.

His mom, Jamie, passed down the talent. While her primary instrument is the piano, she’s played classical violin since she was 12 years old, according to Gilson.

Gilson’s two sisters are violinists, as well. His older sister, Aleyna, began playing three years before Gilson, which is what ultimately inspired him to play. This encouraged his youngest sister, Sofia, to also pick up the instrument. 

While Gilson’s dad doesn’t play any instruments, he has “a very good listening ear,” Gilson said.

In Gilson’s middle school years at Bethlehem Lutheran School in Carson City, Nevada, he joined the Reno Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, where he was placed in the highest-level group, the YSO (Youth Symphony Orchestra). According to Gilson, this is where he found his place in music.

“It’s one thing to do a bunch of solo classical pieces, but to be in the ensemble is bigger and different,” he said.

Gilson was a part of the first violin section where the harmonies of the music are typically played. He had the opportunity to play in the Walt Disney Concert Hall in 2019.

In his high school years at Sierra Lutheran High School, Gilson began leading worship at his youth group at home.

Coming into PLNU his first year, Gilson got connected with Austin Holmes — the worship director at San Diego First Church of the Nazarene.

Since then, Gilson has played for their Sunday church service about once a month.

“That was a really great way to begin getting connected in the whole worship community at Point Loma,” Gilson said.

As talented as Gilson is with his professional training in violin, he plays for nothing other than his passion.

Although he performs during PLNU chapel occasionally, he is not a worship arts intern. He is, however; a part of a list of musicians that chapel pulls from to be a part of different worship services.

Gilson played for the PLNU orchestra for one semester his first year, but decided to discontinue because of the “time commitment.” He said that his priority is his software engineering major, which is also very time-consuming. 

While he is not involved in the music department, he still hopes to incorporate music within his career path. His dream job entails a career that combines software with audio.

Music inspired this desire. “It’d be really cool to work for some audio wave-musical aspect, through software,” he said.

Gilson also has performed for Musoffee; a monthly event at PLNU where student musicians perform for the student population on the first Wednesday of every month.

Last year, Gilson made an appearance for a country set with a band led by David Hayden, a 2023 accounting major graduate.

“After Musoffee in [the] spring of 2023, we’ve [he and Hayden] had a few local gigs around San Diego — bars and a couple of clubs. It’s been a lot of fun,” Gilson said.

This year Gilson and Hayden have performed monthly as a duet at Hidden Craft in downtown San Diego, with Hayden on acoustic guitar and vocals and Gilson on the violin. 

“With someone like Andreas, music is so much more fun to play. He adds so much to [songs] which makes it a lot of fun,” Hayden said. “He’s such an easy-going and fun guy to play with. I can pretty much play anything I want to play and he’ll just figure it out live [on stage].”

With Gilson’s remarkable talent, students’ faces light up when they see him enter the stage because they know it’s going to be good. 

Kristina Patterson, a second-year psychology major, attended Musoffee and saw Gilson and Hayden perform their country set with the band.

“It was so awesome; I’ve never seen a violinist play country music before. Now whenever I see him in chapel, I know the worship set is going to be so fire,” Patterson said.

Click here for a clip from one of Gilson’s performances with Hayden’s band at Humble Heart Thrift in Ocean Beach in September 2023.

“I’m always humbled to see the reaction and interaction I get from people in the audience,” Gilson said. “When I’m playing, I’m listening to the other instrumentalists and bouncing off them and trying to feel the dynamics of the music. In a worship setting, there’s a certain ecstasy to being in the music and in the presence of God, and it’s a special moment.”

Between chapel and performing at local gigs around the city, Gilson said that it’s a good way to keep music in his schedule.

For six years now, Gilson has been experimenting with another string instrument: the guitar. In the past year, he’s transitioned from acoustic to electric. Gilson says his sister Aleyna inspired him to learn.

Aleyna attended PLNU for one year and brought her guitar with her for the new student orientation. “It was a new Taylor acoustic — really nice guitar, and I just started playing around with it while she was off doing orientation,” Gilson said.

In transitioning from violin to learning guitar, Gilson notes the biggest difference is coordination.

“The tunings are different, the number of strings is different — on violin, you have to place your finger exactly where you want to get the exact pitch, whereas on guitar the frets do that for you,” Gilson said. “I still have the backbone foundation of playing the violin for years which has helped me learn the guitar.”

In an article by Merit School of Music, “How Playing an Instrument Makes You Smarter”, it is proven that playing an instrument enhances “sensory networks in the brain, which strengthens language functions such as fluency and word retrieval.” 

This develops reading skills, a stronger reception to understanding information and advanced bilingual abilities. 

Gilson notes that playing both violin and guitar has enhanced his education experience significantly. 

“I think [music] is mentally stimulating. It’s an art form that has a science and structure to it, it has a lot of counting — it’s great for brain development,” Gilson said. “It’s shaped the way I see the world, it’s shaped the way I find value in things.”

Having received a religious education all his life, Gilson’s faith and music are dependent on one another.

“Music is really fascinating because it has this structure that can be explained, but it seems to be a bit unknown as to why these sounds are pleasing to us, why melodies and harmonies go together so well, and to me, it’s a window into the structure of our universe,” Gilson said. “To me, [music] absolutely points to a higher being, a creator, and it’s inspiring.”

While Gilson doesn’t write any of his own music, he often incorporates his improvisation.

To prepare for a set list for chapel, Gilson makes sure he knows what the songs sound like, but in rehearsal, he makes it his own. 

“It’s all by ear,” he said. “There’s a big freedom in that. I’ll write some notes if I come up with something that I like and try to replicate that for chapel.”

On average, Gilson practices the violin and guitar seven to eight hours a week. He hopes to eventually perform the guitar and sing for worship.

“There’s a lot more guitar players than violin players, so there’s a freedom in being one of the few violinists, but I think it’d be fun to get involved in some guitar and singing in [worship] service,” Gilson said.

Gilson’s favorite song to play on the violin is “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” by Pink Floyd. He enjoys making his interpretation of the different solo aspects of the piece.

The Classical Rock violinist, David Garrett is someone Gilson draws inspiration from. According to Gilson, he takes a lot of his style and implements it into the way he performs music.

Gilson’s favorite band is the Red Hot Chili Peppers. His favorite genres of music are Classic and Alternative Rock. 

Gilson gives a lot of credit for his talent to one of his most impactful influences, his mom.

“There were many times when I was a kid where I didn’t want to play, but my mom made me stick with it and I’m so glad that she did,” Gilson said. “I wouldn’t be here playing the violin without her.”

Outside of music, Gilson enjoys running. He ran cross country and track in middle and high school. His go-to running spot is at the Cabrillo Monument.

Gilson plans to always keep music a part of his life, wherever it may take place.  

“Music is a transcendent way for people to connect and convey emotions and messages. What really fascinates me is the mixture of conveying those emotions, whether it’s through lyrics or sounds that make you feel a certain way — it transcends language, and it’s sonically pleasing, and it connects together in a creative, human way,” Gilson said.