SAN ANTONIO – Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the River Walk has provided a perfect avenue for San Antonio residents to get some fresh air and exercise outdoors. Many prefer to listen to their own music while they jog.
But if you’ve ever run the trail over by the Camden Street Riverwalk Bridge, you’ve likely been serenaded by the dulcet tones of violinist Nathan Bibiano.
Six days a week, Bibiano sets up shop underneath the F.I.S.H. art installation and transforms the River Walk into his own personal concert hall. He chose the venue primarily because of the acoustics, and even has cameras set up to video tape his performance for personal and professional critique. The goal is simple:
“I want to compete with some of the best violinists in the world,” Bibiano said.
That desire springs from a life devoted to music, and it’s evident in the range of his songs and styles. The San Antonio native can shift seamlessly from The Dance of the Goblins to The Rains of Castamere from HBO’s Game of Thrones, and he credits his aunt for sparking an interest in alternative forms of music -- specifically metal -- as a teenager.
“She introduced me to Korn and Six Feet Under," Bibiano explained. "As I got older, I got to play with a cool metal band, and we met with so many metal musicians that we listened to when we were kids.”
Now, 17 years into his career, he can play multiple instruments, teaches music lessons privately and regularly participates in competitions.
"I can teach a student how to play piano, how to play drums, guitar, bass, viola, and cello. I want to know everything about music, how to teach it, how to play it and how to repair instruments.”
Bibiano was looking forward to competing in the Vienna International Music Competition in July, but as has been the case with so many events this summer, those plans were canceled due the pandemic. It’s also wreaked havoc on his local performance schedule as well.
“Ever since a National emergency was declared, I lost four months worth of gigs, and I’m not going to do anything major until July," Bibiano said. "I won’t be teaching anyone face to face for awhile, but I’m trying to help out my students as best as I can with online teaching. Otherwise, I’m using my extra free time to practice in my bedroom or in my apartment, and then later in the evening, I come here to practice. I spend a couple of hours here, but I also like to walk a mile while playing my violin to see if I can play it at the same time.”
By sharing his talents with the Alamo City, Bibiano has been injecting a little more life into the River Walk one note at a time. The public has taken notice.
“I live in the downtown area, and I see Nathan consistently playing his violin," said San Antonio resident Chelsea Hejny. "He just brings so much joy and life to this area. He’s always playing his music, smiling at everyone, and he just makes this area bright.”
“I love when they tell me that I’m a positive impact on the community," Bibiano said. "I love the smile on their faces when I play their favorite songs, or whenever my students come here on dates. On Valentine’s Day, they were such divas! They wanted me to be 110% perfect, and I told them 'Dudes, you’re planning a date, not a wedding.”