When I started taking piano lessons in 1994, I walked from Doyle Avenue (where I grew up) to Rochambeau (where my piano teacher taught) every week. Before and after the lesson, I would spend time at the Rochambeau Branch library. In fact, I learned about this piano teacher on Rochambeau from a friendly stranger-turned-high-school friend while doing homework at the Rochambeau library! She was a fellow piano student as well, and her recommendation set me on the musical path I am on today! One day at the Rochambeau branch, I noticed a CD called Black Diamonds by the pianist Althea Waites. I checked it out (amongst other CDs) and was completely blown away by one particular track, Sketches Set 7 by Ed Bland.
Years later, in 2013, I co-founded with my friend Ashleigh Gordon an organization called “Castle of our Skins,” which is dedicated to celebrating Black Artistry through Music. We focus on Black Classical composers, and knowing about this CD (and later owning it) proved invaluable to the creation of this organization! Since its inception, we have reached thousands of adults and children through our community activities, college residencies, lectures, collaborations, educational workshops, online blog and social media activity, and our fully produced interactive concerts that fuse music with other artistic elements such as fashion, spoken word, visual art, and dance. Through COOS and my own personal endeavors, I have performed 2 tracks from the Black Diamonds CD – Sketches Set 7 by Ed Bland, and Troubled Water by Margaret Bonds – in Boston, Providence, Chicago, Florida, and the Netherlands, and I plan on keeping these works permanently in my regular repertoire!
When I entered Classical High School, I would still spend time at the Rochambeau library, but I could also conveniently spend time at the main library downtown. Here I discovered their extensive collection of piano music, including works by modern and contemporary composers which fascinated me. I would practice in the piano room there, as well as sight-read piano and chamber music after school and on the weekends. While I had a piano at home, it was nice to practice in the library, and the convenience of having easy access to so many scores proved highly important. Occasionally the Library would sell their sheet music, and some of the scores I purchased I still have today. One in particular has always been a hit when I perform it, and that is the solo piano version of Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin. I am now a professional musician, first and foremost a composer, and then a performer specializing in piano and experimental vocal performance. I have an international career of performing, lecturing, and having works of mine performed. With that said, I love it the most when pieces of mine are performed in Providence. The ensemble “Verdant Vibes” recently performed my piano trio at Aurora downtown, and the Apple Hill Chamber Players performed one of my string quartets at the McVinney Auditorium in 2017. Future performances are also in the works!
In sum, I would not be who I am today without the Providence Public Library, and I am grateful for the education the fond memories!