Hometown: Fayetteville, West Virginia
Joined the CSO in 2017
Inspiration as a musician: I always need some kind of concrete, non-musical image on which to focus. The best is when I completely forget about the music and am just reveling in the image itself. Good conductors know how to articulate poetic ideas in a way that captures the collective imagination of the whole orchestra.
Another source of these images is whatever book I happen to be reading. That's one reason why the same piece is never the same for me, even from concert to concert – yesterday I may have been indulging in Marcel Proust, while today was liberationist theologian Willie James Jennings. The music becomes an extension of how I digest my reading material.
Favorite orchestral work: Bigger factors like who is conducting and what I had for breakfast that morning make it hard to ascertain the extent to which the repertoire is contributing to my enjoyment or misery. Sometimes I have an amazing experience with a piece, only to later realize it had less to do with the piece and more to do with who is on the podium.
That said, pieces of which I have special memories include Mahler 3 and William Grant Still’s “Afro American” Symphony.
Hobbies: Reading, writing, composing, building my YouTube channel, occasionally listening to great literature in high-speed Morse Code.
Funniest concert memory: Once I played a program with an orchestra where I had to hand my violin to the player next to me in order to help the conductor with something. After receiving my violin back, it took until the second page of the next piece for me to realize that my colleague had mischievously tuned my lowest string down a whole step. I wasn't very amused at the time, but now that it's a memory I can laugh at it!
Where is the strangest place that you’ve ever practiced?
Playing violin on the roof of my childhood house is actually one of the reasons I am in music. When I was about 13 years old I figured out how to climb up without a ladder, so naturally I decided to be “fiddler on the roof,” straddling the peak of our house. It so happened that someone driving by at that very instant saw me, mentioned my name to a politician who had connections with a state educational initiative that was able to sponsor me attending my first summer music festival, which was my first glimpse into the national/international music scene. That transformative experience would not have happened if I hadn't been the daredevil I was at that time!
How can the Orchestra make the world a better place?
Any orchestral performance of great music (old or new) should be, to borrow words from Walter Brueggemann, nothing short of an “act of imagination,” an act of resistance against the “predatory regime” of the status quo - what is considered normal or possible. To witness 80 musicians playing different instruments and parts, each feasting on sometimes the same, sometimes their own personal images - is unlike anything else in this world. I'm so grateful for the increasingly inclusive and often adventurous programming at the CSO. It broadens our palettes as musicians and provides a nice buffet for audiences!