Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman spent years touring America in an orchestra of gifted players who mimed to CDs. She relives their bizarre performances – and her eventual collapse
A young violinist joins an award-winning ensemble led by a famous composer, only to find out that all of the musicians aren’t actually playing their instruments but are simply miming along to a CD instead. It is an incredible premise for a memoir, and might even make a great Coen brothers film, but Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman says this astonishing story happened to her.
At 21, she found herself alone in New York, working two jobs and selling her own eggs to fund her way through Columbia University, where she was studying to be a war correspondent. Hindman finally caught a break in 2002, one that allowed her to monetise her talent as a violinist. She was hired to play in an orchestra by a man she calls only The Composer. But she says she quickly realised the truth: she was to “play” in front of a dead microphone beneath a booming CD player, and her audiences, whether in a concert hall or a shopping mall, would never twig. “Sounds like Titanic!” someone gushed after one gig. The music did sound a little like the film’s soundtrack, and the line gave Hindman the title of her memoir. She did this job for four years. She was, as she writes, Milli Violini.