Eight-year-old busks for a cause

Sophia Nylen

Sophia Nylen

Sophia Nylen

Sophia Nylen

This isn’t the first time Sophia Nylen has donated her earnings to a cause. Her mother says she’s given money to The Glory Hole. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

Sophia Nylen, 8, started playing the violin when she was 3. She says she likes to play fiddle tunes. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

Sophia has been busking since she was 5. Sometimes she plays near the Mt. Roberts Tramway. Here, she’s playing near the Marine View Center. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

Sophia Nylen once made $120 in one busking session. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

One of Juneau’s youngest buskers is raising money this week for a good cause.

Elementary school student Sophia Nylen can sometimes be seen playing her violin in downtown Juneau with an open violin case to collect money. This week, all proceeds will go to the family that lost their Twin Lakes home to a fire on Friday.


It’s a drizzly Monday afternoon in downtown Juneau. Eight-year-old Sophia Nylen stands in front of the new Heritage Coffee Roasting Company espresso bar on South Franklin Street playing Hunter’s Chorus on the violin.

Like any busker in a city, Sophia gets various reactions from people walking by.

“I like playing for the people because the people enjoy music, and some people don’t like it. They just walk by and go, like, ‘Eh.’ They don’t really care,” she says.

Sophia has been busking since she was 5. She says the money she gets isn’t always for her musical talent.

“When I was little, everyone liked me because I was so adorable,” Sophia says.

She once made $120 in one session.

“They weren’t looking at me playing the violin. They were just looking at me, like, my face.”

Sophia started wanting to play the violin when she was 3.

“I kept asking my mom and she said, ‘Fine. I’ll call the teacher and see,'” Sophia says.

According to Ildi Nylen, Sophia’s mother, the teacher said, “‘You know. She’s quite young. They don’t start this early. But bring her to a group lesson.'”

The plan was for Sophia to see how hard it was to play the violin.

“Well, I took her to the group lesson and by the end of the lesson, she convinced the teacher to start to teach her. She’s quite headstrong, in a good way,” Nylen says.

Sometimes Sophia plays downtown for an hour. Sometimes she plays for 15 minutes.

“Last time she played about 20 minutes, she made $35,” Nylen says.

If you ask Sophia, in the past few summers of playing her violin downtown, she’s earned “maybe a million.” Her mom says it’s more like a couple hundred dollars.

Sophia puts a lot of it in the bank to save for college, and sometimes, she says, she gets to spend some of it.

“I bought this shirt because it’s an Under Armour and I like going hiking a lot so I got it,” she says.

The shirt is black and hot pink. In her hair, she wears a light blue feather.

“I like buying girlie stuff because I’m a fashionista,” Sophia says.

Sophia plays downtown a few times a month during the summer and usually on the weekend. But this week is different.

“On Friday, we were driving by the fire and I saw smoke and we looked behind us and we saw a huge fire. It was, like, flames everywhere,” Sophia says.

The single family home in the Twin Lakes area was destroyed.

“The next day after that, I said to my mom, ‘I want to go play my violin for the people that don’t have their house anymore,'” Sophia says.

Owners Amber and Lucas Schneider have three children.

Sophia plans on playing for an hour each day this week and will give everything she earns to the family.

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