The violin lady: street musician delights locals with classical music

A free-spirited street musician from Ocoee, who makes her living playing her violin in downtown Winter Garden, shares her story.

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  • | 10:27 a.m. January 13, 2017
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She’s hard not to notice, but you’ll likely hear her before you spot her.

You’ll hear her skillfully playing Bach on her violin and look around in search of the music’s source. Your search will produce a scene of a lone street musician on the corner of Plant and Main streets in downtown Winter Garden, or, if it’s a Saturday, near the farmer’s market. 

You’ll stop walking and listen to Sasha Alexandra Novkov passionately display her 20 years of expertise with the violin to all the nearby pedestrians. You might even strike up a conversation with her, asking her the questions she hears all the time.

“How long have you been playing the violin?” you’ll inquire. “Twenty years,” she’ll answer. “You don’t even look 20 years old,” you might respond.

“It’s the same conversation with every single person that asks me that, and it’s so funny,” Novkov said. “I might as well wear a sign that says, ‘Yes, I know I look very young.’ ”

Novkov, a 28-year-old violinist who moved to Florida eight years ago from Ohio, now lives with her daughter, husband and father-in-law in Ocoee. She makes her living playing her violin in Winter Garden, earning between $80 to $100 for two to three hours of work. Although, how much she makes per day largely depends on the time of year and weather that day, she said.

She learned how to play the violin at an early age and doesn’t remember ever struggling to learn the musical instrument during her 10 years of private instruction. 

“I just always really wanted to. When I was a little kid, my dad and I used to cut cardboard violins out of, like, construction paper and I would pretend to play,” she recalled. “They made me wait until I was 8 to get my first violin, which was probably a good call because I don’t think I would have had the patience for it any earlier.”

Novkov, whose family hails from Serbia, chose the life of a street musician after noticing the income she made nearly rivaled the money she made with a normal job but offered her more freedom. With her carefree outlook on life, easy laughter and tattoos, Novkov looks like the definition of a free spirit.

However, she maintains she’s an entrepreneur at heart. She’s started two separate businesses, including a teaching studio in Winter Park that she owned for five years before she gave it up. She’s not sure what she’ll do next if she ever decides to open another business, but she’s not worried. 

“I owned a teaching studio, and I just got really sick of it, you know? It wasn’t any fun,” Novkov said. “And a lot of times, when you’re teaching kids, it’s not the kid’s idea to take lessons, it’s the parents. So then you end up just babysitting them for a half hour where they’re not practicing and they suck and you don’t want to listen to them and they don’t want to be there.”

She ultimately decided to give the life of a street musician a shot.

At the beginning, she was dedicated and played gigs all the time. She had even set her sights on joining the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra and received tutelage, she said. But she changed her mind once she saw the pay difference between independent freelance work and orchestra work.

“I would have had to spend all of my time rehearsing for something that didn’t pay me as well as I just made in a half hour today,” Novkov said, pointing to her violin case which held $54 she had made in a half hour. “There was just no point to it, not for me.”

Preferring the independence and flexibility of working as a street musician, Novkov has now been playing in the streets of Winter Garden for a little more than a year. She’s made friends with people by talking to strangers, including other artists and homeless folks, and sometimes feels like a local celebrity. 

“But, you know I like when people stop and talk to me,” Novkov said. “It’s really nice to just get new friends all the time. Basically everyone here in downtown Winter Garden knows who I am. Now I can’t go anywhere without someone going, ‘Look, it’s the violin lady!’”


Contact Gabby Baquero at [email protected].


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