Metro

  • Written by Chelsey Green


Falling in love with music so young was more than transformative. Music became the lead sheet of my life; challenging me to navigate changes with grace, maintain a steady rhythmic groove, dynamically emote through highs and lows and improvise at every turn. It is interesting to consider my life without music had another path been chosen. At this point, I wouldn't have it any other way.

My introduction to the art form was at a very young age. One of my parent's favorite photos is a candid of me, excitedly seated in an unbuttoned onesie and diaper, reaching up as far as I could stretch to touch the keys of my father's keyboard. Every time I see that photo I wonder what tune was on my mind. It feels like a song has been in my heart ever since.

Born into a family of jazz and funk musicians, music surrounded me from birth. At home, at church, at family gatherings, in the car; music was everywhere! My father, Craig Green, is an accomplished jazz and funk percussionist and was a music educator at a performing arts academy in our hometown of Houston, TX for over 30 years. My mother, Cheryl Carr-Green, was also an educator for of over 30 years in the Houston Independent School District. She has been a true music lover her whole life and even desired piano lessons in her youth. While my father's experiences in the music industry had him convinced otherwise, my mother had visions of my musicianship while I was in the womb. To be honest, it was seemingly destined. My grandfather is also a musician (blues and gospel saxophonist), my uncle is a straight-ahead jazz saxophonist and my late grandmother was even on her way to a career as a classical vocalist in her teenage years.

When I was four years old, my mother had the foresight to ask a random - but very kind - woman with a violin case in Kinko's if she would teach me private violin lessons. Not usually accepting of a student so young, the violinist took me on as her youngest student that day. Little did I know that single moment would change my life.

My private lessons were so exciting at that age. My first teacher, Mrs. Karen Hall Wilkson, would go out of her way to make sure I enjoyed every bit of my violin lessons. She would even extend opportunities for me to come sit in the orchestra pit with her and her colleagues for performances of the Nutcracker by the Houston Ballet. What a sight! Dazzled by everything happening around me, I always left those evenings both thrilled and inspired.

Simultaneously, my parents would keep my ears, mind and heart open to hearing and practicing musical genres other than classical music on my violin. I would leave a violin lesson and hear classical, contemporary Christian music and jazz on one drive home. I'd even jam with my father on a tune by Herbie Hancock, Chicago, Stevie or Marvin Gaye. Additionally, some Sunday mornings would even include a nervously performed 'Amazing Grace' for my church congregation.

Fortunately, that was my norm. Practicing and performing varied musical genres on my violin was fluid for me. Versatility, quick adaptability and improvisation was an idea instilled very young. I had no idea at the time how that training would shape my life experiences. 

It didn't take long on my journey as a string player to realize that being a Black girl playing the violin meant I was the "only" in many scenarios. The need for the aforementioned adaptability became increasingly magnified. While young, the prejudice and pressures of these experiences were often frustrating and discouraging through my years of schooling and musical training. Looking back, I am grateful for the depth and weight of the sizeable awareness, breadth of knowledge and immense accountability learned on all sides. 

My career thus far has been divinely led and I don't take it lightly. Classically soloing in Carnegie Hall at age 16, performing jazz festivals and educational concerts around the world with my ensemble Chelsey Green and The Green Project, recording my own Billboard-charting Contemporary Jazz album, becoming the first Black, American, Woman to perform at the National Theater in Kuwait, being featured in a nationally syndicated Walmart commercial with Kirk Franklin, having my ensemble feature with the National Symphony Orchestra, performing with Wu-Tang Clan on the acclaimed NPR Tiny Desk and even taking the stage with Lizzo for the opening of the 62nd Annual GRAMMY Awards are just a few of the incredible opportunities I've been blessed to have. What a ride this has been!

After completing my doctorate in May 2017, I was appointed to the faculty at the esteemed Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA as an Associate Professor. Now, every stage I take, every classroom walked into, every speech given, I think about that 4-year-old girl who was given a chance in Kinko's that day. I think about young string players of color, their communities, their opportunities and their need to see the possibilities. I think about them striving to learn both classical masterpieces and the precious musics of our ancestors. These students need advocates to create space in academia - at all levels - for this to be their acceptable norm just as it was for me. 

My musical journey would have been incomplete without the support of my village. My family, teachers and mentors gave me the wings to ReEnvision the capabilities of violin and music in my mind. Now, as a performing artist and educator, I feel a large responsibility to show youth that there is freedom and success in tapping into personal creativity. Just as musicians utilize improvisation to personalize their musical delivery, it was my tool in discovering my unique path both on and off the stage. 


To learn more about me and my music, please visit www.chelseygreen.com. My latest release, ReEnvisioned, is now available to download and stream on all platforms.

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