In February 2005, I received a call from the mother of Adé Williams, a seven-year-old violinist. Her neighborhood music program on Chicago’s South Side did not offer scholarships and her mother could not afford to continue paying for lessons. Adé’s mother asked me to recommend another music school for her daughter.
I offered to listen to Adé in order to assess an appropriate match. Knowing that she would be playing a Vivaldi Concerto for me, I expected to send her to one of the fine local programs for beginning and intermediate students.
What I heard was something extraordinary. Yes, she had great intonation, accurate rhythm, and excellent technique. But it was the way that Adé sang the music, her phrasing and expression, which was so unusual for such a young child.
I asked Adé to sit down while I talked to her mother about their situation. After a little while, Adé started to get fidgety. Finally, she couldn’t stand it any more and jumped up, full of excitement, with a big smile on her face. “Can I play my violin again now?” she exclaimed.
It is always a special experience to encounter a musical prodigy whose skill and maturity belie their years. It is far rarer to meet a young artist with Adé’s depth of joy in music-making; a joy that radiates as she plays to all who hear her. Clearly, she needed to study with some of the best teachers of pre-professional violinists in the country.
First, Adé needed a better violin. Through the Rachel Barton Pine (RBP) Foundation’s Instrument Loan Program, we were able to provide her with a high quality half-sized instrument. She was able to attend a summer solo and chamber music festival with help from the RBP Foundation’s Grants for Education and Career. She successfully auditioned for the studio of Almita and Roland Vamos, becoming the first William Warfield Scholar at the Music Institute of Chicago’s prestigious Academy program.
As Adé has progressed through the years, the RBP Foundation has continued to support her with instrument loans and financial assistance. Now sixteen years old, Adé has gone on to win numerous national prizes including the Linda and Isaac Stern Charitable Foundation Award, From the Top’s Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award, and first place in the Sphinx Competition. She has soloed with orchestras across the country including the Cleveland Orchestra, Detroit Symphony, Buffalo Philharmonic, Florida Orchestra, Grand Rapids Symphony, and New World Symphony. This year, she made her solo debut at Carnegie Hall as part of the Sphinx Virtuosi tour.
In addition to her continued studies and professional appearances, Adé donates her time by performing for many charitable causes. Most recently, she began her own series of Adé and Friends benefit concerts, dedicated to eliminating homelessness among children in the Chicago Public Schools. Adé explains, “Sharing my music around the world has been my career goal since I was six. My ultimate goal in studying music is to become a world class solo violinist. I also want to play chamber music and do lots of charity work. Overall, I want to continue sharing my love of music and making people happy with it.” She’s well on her way!
Severe financial challenges can be a seemingly insurmountable obstacle for an aspiring young musician. Adé is one of the more than 50 talented young string players whom the RBP Foundation has helped follow their dream, and the number of applications we receive increases every year. That’s why we’re counting on your generosity now more than ever.
The future of classical music depends on supporting talented students and young professional musicians during the early years of their development. With your help, young artists like Adé can make the world a better place by enriching the lives of all who hear them and inspiring the next generation. Your gift is truly the gift of a lifetime.