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March 15, 2015


Those who did so would find photos and video clips of England — "The Soul Violinist" — working with legendary producer Quincy Jones. They would have found videos of him interpreting pop tunes for tourists on California's Venice Beach and on a frozen Chicago lakefront, and performing the national anthem prior to Chicago Fire and Charlotte Bobcats games.

And they also would have learned from his personal website that he was "born and raised in Waukegan, Illinois, the home of Jack Benny."

It might be said that England is the second-most famous violinist to hail from The City of Progress and possibly its most accomplished, given that Benny was classically trained on the violin but mostly played it for laughs. But it can be reported that both took up their instrument of choice at age 6 while going to school in Waukegan, and both carried a loyalty to their native city with them as they went into the world of entertainment.

England's loyalty was on full display at the Aug. 17 council meeting when he took a few minutes to address the gathering, using his own story to encourage local musicians and advocate for arts programs.

"I am a son of Waukegan, and I am a violinist, " he told the gathering. "I started playing when I was 6 years old, and since then, I've been from here to Chicago to L.A., and I've been very successful along the way. I garnered the attention of the likes of Michael Jordan — I'm actually one of four instrumentalists who aren't athletes who are signed to Brand Jordan.

"I went to Southern Illinois, I have three degrees in music — one in music, one in audio engineering and one in performance — and I've been traveling and performing throughout the world for about the last five years or so, and I've been on TV a bunch of times, " he added without a hint of arrogance. "I say all that to say that I'm back at home, and I want to make a difference."

England, who was visiting from his current base in Los Angeles, said he's "benefited directly from the philanthropy of Jack Benny." Benny's return visits to Waukegan featured concerts to raise funds for local music programs, and England wants to follow in those footsteps.

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