Monday, September 1, 2003

Girl's violin skills have baseball fans cheering

Notes will reverberate: All the way to Kuwait

By Brenna R. Kelly
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Alexandra Amend, 9, from Green Township, plays the National Anthem on her violin before the Reds game at Great American Ball Park on Sunday afternoon. Her mother Maureen in behind her on the right.
(Leigh Patton photo)
| ZOOM |
Standing in the practice room, 9-year-old Alexandra Amend quietly told her mom, "I'm not ready." But moments later, she walked onto the field, lifted the bow to her violin and played a perfect "Star-Spangled Banner" in front of 29,272 people at Great American Ball Park.

"Good job, little girl," shouted someone in the crowd.

"Good job," St. Louis pitcher Woody Williams told Alexandra as she walked past the dugout.

St. Louis Cardinal manager Tony LaRussa and several players lined the stairs of the dugout offering her praise as she walked by them.

But perhaps Alexandra's biggest fan was 6,800 miles away.

Army Sgt. Robert Cowherd, the inspiration for Alexandra's performance, has been stationed in Kuwait for the last 10 months. Though Alexandra and her family have never met Cowherd, they have been exchanging letters with him for five months as part of AdoptaPlatoon, a program that links people with troops overseas.

They quickly found common ground. Cowherd, 40, grew up in Cincinnati.

Sunday, Alexandra's Green Township family invited Cowherd's family, who live in Silverton, to the game to watch Alexandra play.

"I was so excited," said Vivian Cowherd, Robert's 39-year-old sister. "When I saw her, I just had to hug her."

Vivian Cowherd got a surprise call from her brother at 3 a.m. Friday telling her about Alexandra's tribute.

"He is just bouncing off the walls," Cowherd said. "He's like 'You've got to get me pictures.'"

Vivian and her father, James Cowherd, videotaped the performance and plan to send it to Kuwait. Robert Cowherd is a Moeller High School graduate who lives in Arizona with his wife, Ella, and two daughters - one just a year older than Alexandra.

Alexandra, a fifth-grader at Summit Country Day school, has been playing the violin for five years. Though she had played in public before - she raised $2,000 for the Red Cross after Sept. 11, 2001, by playing her violin on Fountain Square, and outside the Aronoff Center for the Arts - the Reds game was her largest audience so far.

"It was scary," she said afterward.

"But was the scariness worth it?" asked her mother, Maureen Amend.

Alexandra nodded her head yes.



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