Q&A with Violinist Tai Murray, Classical Music's A-List Sister

Q&A with Violinist Tai Murray, Classical Music's A-List Sister

For this Black woman, music equals the violin

by Sergio Mims, March 03, 2012

Q&A with Violinist Tai Murray, Classical Music's A-List Sister

or I just happened to be lucky that I was never happened to be around that.

EBONY: Wow, you were lucky!

MURRAY: The thought of that happening in my family was completely ludicrous. The support was there, the encouragement was there to do something that was intellectually stimulating, to do something that was worth learning, to learn art,  to really learn the art of discipline and to really immerse myself in something like playing the violin and studying music. It was something that was encouraged always and I never heard that it was something that Black people didn’t do. To the opposite, I heard the contrary. To be creative musically is something that is deeply rooted in Black culture and just because it was classical music didn’t mean that it shouldn’t be done.

You know, Miles Davis, for example, went to Julliard and I was very lucky to have taken lessons at Indiana University with the great opera soprano Camilla Williams, who just passed away recently, and just the thought that someone like her existed and she was a great  inspiration for me as an artist, a teacher and as a person. And the knowledge she had to just be able to tell stories about herself and Marian Anderson. And so my awareness of the precedent was there, so I never felt that I was growing out of something that didn’t already exist.

EBONY: So when did you make the decision that being a professional classical violist was what you wanted to be? When did you cross that bridge from just being a student to wanting it to be your life?

MURRAY: Well, I was lucky enough to have early on some performance opportunities that felt right, felt like this was something that I wanted to do. So being a musician was always around I my mind. When I was 10 years old—and I remember this moment clearly— I was by myself, I knew that my violin was nearby, and I sat down and I aked myself, how much am I willing to put into this? How much am I willing to go further? Do I want to give 100%, because that is what it’s going to take to do this. And I remember making that agreement with myself that, yes, I am going to give all that I can do because this is what I love to do. And I have not thought about anything else since then.

EBONY: You travel all around the world giving recitals and concerts, performing in legendary concert halls and with some of the most important orchestras and conductors in the world. What experience you can think of that stands out to most?

MURRAY: One of the most special experiences I had performing was going to Caracas, Venezuela and playing the Sibelius Violin Concerto with conductor Eduardo Marturet and the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra. That was very special. I’ve played with many orchestras and in most of the musical experiences I’ve had everyone plays with heart. As a musician you have to. But there was something that stood out with the Simon Bolivar about the way they approached the music, how they approached their instruments, their love for what they were doing because their work on their instruments that was so much tied to how much their instruments had taken them from whatever individual situations they all were in because of that extraordinary El Sistema music program in that country. It was breathtaking!

EBONY: Finally one question that I always love to ask, what do you know now that you wished you had known before you got into your profession?

MURRAY: That’s a really interesting question... I guess that somehow being open to realizing that anything can happen. But I knew that then, that anything can happen!

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