Showing posts with label Tami Lee Hughes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tami Lee Hughes. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

My First Violin!

When I was four years old, my father came home with a tiny black case.  I didn’t know what was inside but I could tell it was something special. 

“Tami,” he said,  “I bought you a violin.  You’re going to start taking lessons!” 

I felt a sudden rush of excitement. 

THIS,’ I thought,  ‘will be my new favorite toy!’ 

I begged him to let me play right away, but he said, “Not now . . . you have to take lessons.  You will learn.” 

Looking back at this moment, I am amazed at how his words have permeated every part of my experience.  As a violinist, I am constantly learning, striving to fully master an instrument that is as challenging as it is beautiful.   As I reflect on my time with the BSO, I am grateful for the things I have learned.

Playing in orchestra full time is like playing football.
Before moving to Baltimore, I didn’t think much about the Ravens.  However, football is a hot topic everywhere I go– in stores, at church, and even at work!  The Ravens play hard.  They run up and down the field, take hits, and tackle opposing players.   After my first few concerts with the BSO, I felt as though I had been playing in a Ravens game and had been tackled multiple times by a guy named “House!”  “I’m so sore!!!’ I thought, “Am I on a concert stage or in a football war zone?”  Musicians make it look easy, but playing in orchestra is very demanding physically.  Although I have played violin all my life, I have had to condition my body for the physical rigors of playing in orchestra each week.  The Ravens are amazing, but there is another team of enduring champs in town: The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

Playing in an orchestra is completely different than playing as a soloist.
Before this concert season, I performed primarily as a soloist.  I worked painstakingly to memorize pieces, develop musical nuance, and perfect stage presence.   I carried the weight of my performances, working to present renditions that reflected my personality and taste.  As orchestral player, I walk onstage with an opposite goal in mind: to avoid sticking out.  If I play a solo, it’s a big problem.  I’m either playing out of turn or playing differently than everyone else!  Orchestral playing requires a heightened awareness of the other players onstage, and, absolute commitment to uniformity at every level: in pitch, bow stroke, vibrato, rhythm, expression, and everything in between.   Although these elements play a key role in solo performance, orchestral performance requires skillful synchronization.
Orchestras are exceptionally dynamic organizations.
The modern symphony orchestra is one of the most dynamic music organizations in the community.  In addition to presenting world-class performances, orchestral organizations can make a positive impact on the community. During my time with the BSO, I have become convinced more than ever that orchestras can not only champion great music, but also unite diverse groups of people.  Orchestras can effectively bringing these initiatives to the forefront of music scene.  I am excited to be part of this dual mission and have a renewed purpose as a performer who hopes to make a difference in the world.

After many years, the violin is still my favorite toy!  Whether it is part of my journey to football, learning to play well with others, or discovering of a deeper purpose, it is an integral part of my adventures.  I can only imagine the beautiful sounds, wonderful people, and lessons that lie ahead!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Game of Trust

Tami Lee Hughes
As I child, I loved playing outside with my friends.  The weather in Baton Rouge was warm and sunny most of the year and our backyard was perfect for playing hide-and-seek or simply running around in circles.  One weekend, my friends and I decided to play a trust game.

The object was to blindly fall backward and trust a friend to catch you.  As the oldest and biggest child in the group, I was designated to catch first.  I stood behind the little girl who lived next door and prepared to break her fall.  As she turned her back to me, she looked behind her to be sure I was ready.  She saw two strong and sturdy arms extended in anticipation.  Fully assured I would catch her, she fell gracefully into my arms.  We immediately switched places.  With my back turned to her, I looked behind me to check her position.  Instead of seeing two strong arms, however, I saw two puny arms unfolded from a small frame.  I thought to myself, ‘Are you kidding me?  She couldn’t catch a feather!  I’m going to hit the ground hard!’   I turned around and took a deep breath.  ‘I’ll count to three,I thought, ‘and then I’ll do it.

Ok . . . here we go . . . 1. . . 2 . . . “Wait!” I shouted. “Are you sure you’re ready?”

“Yes!  I’m ready!”

Alright . . . I can do this . . . 1. . . 2 . . . 2 ½ . . . “Did you hear my mom call me?” I asked.  “I thought I heard something!”

“No!  Now hurry up and fall back!”

Deep breath . . . 1. . . 2 . . . 2 ½ . . . 2 ¾ . . . “Ah man!  I need to go to the bathroom and it’s an emergency!”  I took off running, leaving the trust game far behind.  I learned an important lesson that day: Trust is a matter of life and death.

Three months into my time with the BSO, I have settled into my performance schedule and have grown to admire so much about the group.  Maestra Alsop and the players display the highest level of technical and artistic mastery, professionalism, and passion, but from my perspective, these factors alone do not define the orchestra’s success.

The orchestra really thrives because of trust.  Maestra Alsop has full trust, confidence, and respect for the players.  She knows that every musician will play the right note at the right time and commit to the inspiration she provides. The players, in turn, trust Maestra Alsop.  They have faith in her judgment on musical matters great and small and hold her artistic vision in high esteem.  In addition, the players trust each other.  Each player depends on others in his or her section, and in other sections, for melodic support.  With trust as a cornerstone, the BSO’s success is not a reflection of individual expertise, but of genuine cooperation and teamwork. 

As an adult, I still cling to the idea that trust is a matter of life and death.  My closest friends are the most trustworthy people I know and I love cultivating new friendships with people I believe I can trust.  I’m truly grateful to spend a year performing with an orchestra that demonstrates this concept so beautifully through music.  Because of trust, playing with the BSO is not a mere exercise in musical proficiency, but a joy!

-Tami Lee Hughes, December 2012

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

"Success unshared is failure." (Tami Lee Hughes - BSO Fellow)

A few years ago, while reading about John Paul DeJoria, co-founder of Paul Mitchell hair products, the following words hit me like a bolt of lightening:

Success unshared is failure.

This is DeJoria’s personal mantra.  A self-made billionaire and philanthropist, he has donated millions of dollars to fight hunger, develop community programs for inner city children, and provide resources for medical causes.

I could hardly contain myself as I read the sentence over and over again:

Success unshared is failure.
Success unshared is failure.
Success unshared is failure.

Each word has meaning but together, the words create something so powerful: the guiding principle that our greatest success is not realized through accomplishments for personal gain, but rather, through the active use of our talents to make a difference in the lives of others.  

Tami Lee Hughes - BSO Fellow
Tami Lee Hughes - BSO Fellow
During my time with the BSO, I have the opportunity to work OrchKids, a program that provides music education, instruments, academic instruction, meals, and performance and mentorship opportunities to students in Baltimore City neighborhoods.  On my first day with OrchKids, I entered a classroom filled with wiggly, giggly kindergarten students who are not only learning to tie their shoes, but also to play the violin.  The students can hardly contain themselves when it’s time for class as they proudly take their instruments to their assigned spots in the room.  They soak everything in as fresh sponges, from note reading to playing techniques to learning new songs. Each time I visit, I can’t help but think of how the class resembles my own kindergarten experience.  Like these little ones, we were full of energy with a spark for learning.  However, we had limited resources for exploring our creative talents.  Through OrchKids, the young students I see each week are not only learning to play a beautiful instrument, but they are also developing a creative identity, learning to think in new ways, becoming disciplined, and grow in responsibility.  The impact of the program extends to every area of their lives, including who they will become and how they will achieve academic success.  One of the elements I most appreciate is the interaction between the OrchKids students and instructors.  The students are comfortable with the teachers so they love to ask questions.  In the kindergarten class, one student often says with a big smile, “Miss Tami.  I need help!”  He really enjoys playing the violin and wants to get it right.  When class is over, he sometimes gives me a hug before I leave the room.  It’s his way of saying, “Thank you for helping me!  I’m glad you’re here!”

Success unshared is failure.  I am reminded of this every time I open my case and see these four words on a little sign I posted inside.  Having incorporated music outreach into my work for many years, I know programs like OrchKids make a big difference. I love performing and hope to develop a wonderful career as an artist, but I know my greatest achievement will be the impact I have on the lives of others. 
The students make my work truly meaningful and inspire me to make the most of my gifts and talents.