(Originally published in the December 2, 2017 Edition of Exposure Magazine).
What a joy this beautiful lady brings when she shares her gifts with people. Chenoa Alamu is a talented, kind women that resides in Springfield, IL, and inspires others when she plays her violin. In October 2017, she was invited to participate in the Colour of Music Festival held every year in Charleston, SC. It is a music festival for black classical musicians founded by Lee Pringle. The festival just celebrated their 5th anniversary. She believes she was invited through word of mouth, but isn’t sure. She received an email over the summer asking her to be join them, and was elated her scheduled permitted her to participate.
Sherri: Can you share with us about how you became interested in the violin?
Chenoa: As the story goes, my mother took me to my first classical music concert when I was two years old. The Suzuki Violin Method, founded by Dr. Shinichi Suzuki, was coming to tour the United States with Japanese children. She told me I showed an interest in the violin during that concert and wanted to enroll me at that age, but was told I was too young. She waited, and at age three, I started violin lessons. As they say, the rest is history!
Sherri: How does the violin relate to your life in terms of happiness and health? When you play or listen to music, does it affect you physically?
Chenoa: I experience immense joy when I play the violin, especially in an orchestral setting. Within the past few months, I’ve been listening to music set to frequencies that have helped me tremendously with my anxiety levels. I would say music has affected me more emotionally and mentally than physically. However, I do have some of my favorite songs chosen for my gym workouts that help keep me in the groove.
Sherri: How do you feel that being an African American woman has impacted your journey?
Chenoa: Growing up, I was told by white male teachers that I had two things going for me as a violinist: One, I am African American, and two, I am a female, I carried this as a sense of pride. However sometimes, I felt torn between two worlds, White and Black. My black friends didn’t understand what I did, although they supported me, and I didn’t quite feel accepted by my white peers, whom I grew up taking violin lessons with. This created a feeling of being off balance constantly. This may sound strange, but it wasn’t until I participated in the Colour of Music Festival that I TRULY felt I belonged, and had something to contribute. I was treated as an equal, not only among my peers but among people who LOOKED liked me and shared the same passion as I did as a classical musician. It was a very powerful experience for me. It boosted my self-esteem as a violinist, as a woman, and as an African American. Having a sense of identity is very important, especially for people of color! Although these two factors haven’t hindered me from experiencing and enjoying this wonderful field, they did have an impact.
Sherri: What is your greatest wish for inspiring the world with your gift of music?
Chenoa: I am blessed to be in a field that has afforded me many opportunities to travel, both in this country and abroad. I’ve met people literally from all over the world, who speak different languages, have different religions, sexual orientations, and no matter what, it’s MUSIC- we are all moved in some way through music. Beethoven’s 5th symphony is the same no matter who you are, where you come from, what teacher you studied with, or the music school you attended. It truly is the world’s UNIVERSAL language. I pray more people realize this, and continue to use music as a tool to bring us closer together!
These are my older blog posts, which originally appeared in my Exposure Magazine Column, "Healthy Living."