(FinalCall.com) – With the poise of a dancer and the athleticism of a gymnast, violinist Tai Murray performed Apr. 1 with precision and passion on the Chicago Symphony Orchestra stage, where she made her debut as a nine-year-old.
To the trained classical ear, her exquisite technique amazed all the way into the 8th position; to the novice, it was simply beautiful music. As a featured musician in two subscription evening concerts at the Symphony, the Chicago native performed Bernstein’s Serenade, a story based on Plato’s Symposium.
“It’s about love and its effects on everyone,” Tai explained to The Final Call of the challenge of communicating the piece to the audience. “It was gratifying to see the reception; it was so wonderful, which is the goal of any performing artist.”
The five movements took the audience from an opening animated, lively call and answer with the orchestra to a barely audible melody in the fourth movement, by far the most stirring movement to the ears of this writer.
“That’s my favorite movement, too, called the Agathon,” agreed Tai, who gushes over classical music like a high school crush–only she has made music her life, not a passing fancy.
“There’s something about a great classical work that touches you enough in a way that nothing else can. You hear it and it just strikes a chord somewhere and that’s what I really love about the music that I play,” she shared.
Her off-the-shoulder seafoam gown revealed more than finely toned arms, but also the committed practice that this 21-year-old has engaged herself in since the age of five to refine her musical form.
She first showed an interest in the violin as a 2-year-old, and finally, right before her fifth birthday, her mother bought her first one. Her childhood lessons led her to study at Indiana University, and currently she is completing her last months of a three-year diploma program at Julliard in New York City. Surrounded by the diverse artistic world at Lincoln Center, Tai has decided to make the city her base, while continuing to travel and play concerts. She has played with numerous leading orchestras across the country, and was distinguished by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan when he brought her center stage after playing the Beethoven concerto in the orchestra for his concert during the Nation of Islam’s annual convention held in Los Angeles in 2002.
Conductor Michael Morgan became familiar with Ms. Murray when she performed with the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra, when he was an assistant conductor there. Now, the music director of the Sacramento Philharmonic Orchestra in California, he has frequently featured her over the years. He told the Chicago Sun Times (Apr. 2, 2004) why he believes she is a musician to watch:
“What has surprised me is the depth of understanding,” he said. “It’s sensational, and it’s all about the playing. Not histrionics onstage, not about the dress, just about old-fashioned violin playing.”
Despite the accolades and acclaim, Tai intends on continuing her lessons. Her work ethic has been essential in preventing her from putting the violin down for other interests, for she enjoys practicing, preparing, rehearsing and learning.
“There’s so much information, there’s no possible way that I could learn it all in my lifetime, so I enjoy the idea that years and years from now I can still be learning new things.”
Next season, she will be enrolled in a two-year residency program at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. She acknowledges that the intensity and competitive nature of Julliard proved beneficial to her growth.
“It forces you to work and concentrate on what you’re doing and that has helped me solidify my wanting to be a violinist for the rest of my life,” she said.
That commitment has been shared with her family, who has provided emotional support, kept her on track and shares her expenses: rehearsals, travel, lessons and wardrobes. On the low end, one year financially taxes the family upwards of $30,000, pointed out Tai, who says she can’t wait until she is economically independent and can pay them back.
Part of her struggle is an ongoing search to find an instrument she can call her own, instead of borrowing quality violins, a common practice for budding musicians. Since January, she has been borrowing a 1727 Guarneri del Gesu from Julliard, an old Italian violin with incredible capabilities.
“These instruments have their own voices, it’s just so amazing. They all sound so individual and they just have beautiful sounds. They can almost play themselves,” she notes. “Every day I pick it up, I discover something new in the instrument.”
While challenging herself to find her own way of shaping phrases in a musical repertoire that has been played countless times by others, Tai also struggles with finding her place within the classical world of music as a young Black female.
“I don’t see a lot of people like me, so I have to find my own niche. I think I am still searching. I am taking it a day at a time to see how things pan out,” she shares of her focus on working on being the best musician she can be. “I don’t think I have quite graduated to the artist, yet. I am still working on that.”