When I was just about four years old, my dad pushed me to be a drummer, specifically a jazz drummer because my family has a history of jazz musicians. My father was a jazz drummer and so was his father. My mother played piano in the church choir and my sister is a gospel/jazz singer. However, when it came to the day of drum lessons, my instincts were to put the drumsticks up on my shoulder as if I were playing the violin. They realised at that moment drums were out of the question.
Coming from a musical family - you know the term “starving musician” - money didn’t come easy, especially as no one was really a professional. I had to work really hard for whatever I wanted in life. When I was accepted to the Manhattan School of Music in New York City, I created my own fundraisers and concerts to gather up enough money to survive the ridiculous amount of tuition, not to mention the adversity I encountered in my teenage years with my other siblings. My parents would literally see me on the news doing something very successful following the next story of my brothers doing something very horrible: we were popular for opposite reasons, if you can imagine.
After graduating from Manhattan School of Music, and Paris Conservatoire, I started to get a new outlook on life and made a vow to always be better than myself at any given moment and be a role model for others. I would say that became my calling.
Music for me is healing. I use it for when I am happy, or sad or even confused. It always tends to have the answers. For example, what really gets me excited is if I have an impact on someone’s life. I go to my old schools every time I go back to North Carolina to talk with the kids who are maybe dealing with adversity. I remember when I first started doing this, I was confused about what I should say. A teacher told me a long time ago to just play violin, that’ll be enough - and she was right! I would get letters saying how the behavioural issues toned down and the kids are working harder than ever. That keeps me motivated, that keeps me going.
Conservatoire de Paris
Manhattan School of Music
New York, USA
University of North Carolina School of the Arts
North Carolina, USA
What is your favourite piece of music, and why do you love it?
I don’t have a favourite piece of music. It scares me to think I have to choose one. I love the classical genres. I live for Mozart, early Beethoven and Schubert. I think I love it so much is because its so exact compositionally, but also so human.
What do you think concerts of the future should look like?
I think classical concerts in general should not just be in concert halls. Concerts should be in soup kitchens for example, more accessible to everyone.