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with canEarly Years
I was born and raised in Houston, TX, living most of my grade school years in a suburb of Houston called Missouri City (Mo. City). At the time I was growing up, Missouri City was one of those places where I laid my head to rest, but went to school, did my shopping, and went out to eat in Houston. I was quite the homebody. There weren't many girls my age in the neighborhood, so my brothers took to playing football and riding bikes more often than I did. But that was fine with me. I loved reading (and still do) and that kept me pretty busy while at home. Before starting school, I began playing cello at the age of four. My first teacher was Susan Hines. She now lives in Virginia. I was attending Suzuki Cello Workshops that were often held in strip shopping malls.

Grade Schools
I attended Parker Elementary School where my mother taught general music, art, chorus, and later on she was responsible for devising the class schedule for the entire school! Parker was great. I loved having cello lessons, piano class, art class, computer class, and chorus as parts of the regular daily schedule and the teachers there never underestimated the talents and skills of the students. We were always encouraged to strive for excellence. After school, I was a member of the All-City Orchestra that held rehearsals at Parker in the band room. This was my first orchestral experience and before I graduated fifth grade I had become the principal cellist of the orchestra. My cello teacher, Diane Bonds, who taught at Parker, gave me a great foundation, which led me to achieve so many wonderful accomplishments in music-making. I studied with her from kindergarten through 10th grade. The students at Parker were really special and I still keep in contact with many friends I made there.

Johnston Middle School was my junior high school. I also liked Johnston for its focus on the arts. with bbush I had chamber music class for 0 period and orchestra in the afternoon. While attending Johnston, I had the opportunity to perform for Barbara Bush at the Liedtke House in Houston, TX.

☚ Here's the photo I took with Mrs. Bush, my friend since kindergarten, Chala Yancy, violinist, my orchestra director, Kathryn Brown, and Dan Nguyen, violinist.

The Johnston orchestra was granted the opportunity to take a trip to Washington, DC, to perform for the Music Educators National Conference (MENC). I was featured as a soloist with the orchestra, playing Ernst Bloch's Prayer.

I spent two years (9th and 10th grades) at Houston's High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA). One of my fondest memories there was being a part of the gig quartet. Often, clients would hire the quartet for various engagements around the city of Houston. I learned a lot about being a chamber musician during that time. I was playing with the most advanced string players in the school and it was a privilege and a pleasure to play with and learn from them. I got to know Houston a lot better since we were asked to perform all over town. I also learned a lot about patience since I, not having learned how to drive yet, would have to wait for my mother to pick me up after performances. And depending on how far away the engagements were from home, sometimes I had to wait a while. :)
Those early lessons of patience have helped me tremendously as a traveling artist: waiting for planes, trains, buses, cars...

I completed my high school education at Walnut Hill School (WHS) in Natick, MA, near Boston. Benjamin Zander, conductor of Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and the New England Conservatory's Youth Philharmonic Orchestra, convinced my mother to allow me to leave the nest two years early and pursue my education in New England. He was right to do so and I truly feel blessed to have made the decision to leave home and attend WHS. During my two years there, I learned so much. I had the best music theory teacher, the most demanding chamber music coach, an inspiring cello teacher, Andrés Díaz, and my first time living on a school campus. While at Walnut Hill, I had my first out-of-USA tour. The Youth Philharmonic Orchestra (YPO is a part of the New England Conservatory Preparatory School), of which I was a member, took a tour of Chile, the summer of 1993. I was so happy that I had taken a Spanish course the preceding academic year! What an exciting time! We had a rigorous schedule but all of our performances were filled with love, quality, fun, and intimacy with our audience members. Upon high school graduation in 1994, I was chosen by the graduating class to be the Commencement Speaker.

Undergraduate Studies
I did my undergraduate studies at New England Conservatory of Music (NEC) where I studied with Laurence Lesser, NEC President Emeritus. What a cool guy. During my four years at NEC, Mr. Lesser instilled in me the desire to have my own voice as a cellist and to figure out how to find a method of learning that was right for me instead of following a cookie-cutter formula. I am so grateful to him for that. I was learning to take responsibility for the kind of education I wanted to receive. I had an awesome piano trio while I was there - all four years. I loved rehearsing, receiving chamber music coachings from Ruggiero Allifranchini (violin), Yeesun Kim (cello), Colin Carr (cello), Patricia Zander (piano), and Veronica Joachim (piano), and performing with my group. The fondest memory of my time at NEC was the day before I graduated. I was the only undergraduate out of the four soloists chosen to perform on the NEC Commencement Concert in 1998. I performed Haydn's D major Cello Concerto (mvts. 2 and 3) with the NEC orchestra. My mother, two aunts, and both grandmothers had flown up from Texas to be in attendance. Jordan Hall was packed. The violinist of my piano trio was concertmistress. The place was so charged with positive energy. It felt good being on stage with my friends, knowing that all of us were going off to do great things.

Graduate Studies
I attended The Juilliard School in New York City for my Master's in Cello Performance degree. Those were perhaps the shortest two years in my educational history. They were also among the busiest years of my life. I had always been one not to envision myself at Juilliard, especially as an undergraduate. But I decided to audition there for my graduate studies and I'm glad I did. I was more focused as a graduate student and the Juilliard environment supported that focus. I studied with Joel Krosnick while at Juilliard. There couldn't have been a better student-teacher match at that time in my development. I immediately felt Mr. Krosnick's caring and musically adventurous nature. Those parts of him allowed me to open myself up to new possibilities in music-making as well as diving into learning non-traditional repertoire and new music. Of course I made chamber music a full part of my time at Juilliard. I had a string quartet, the Acacia String Quartet, that worked quite diligently during those years. One of the violinists of Acacia happened to be one of the two violinists I had worked with in my piano trio at NEC. While at Juilliard I also broadened my knowledge of Black composers. I was thrilled to program pieces by Coleridge Taylor Perkinson, Noel da Costa, and Undine Smith Moore on my graduation recital.

I'm currently enrolled in Northwestern University's Bienen School of Music Doctor of Music program. I am studying with Prof. Hans Jensen. I started the program in September 2008, and I'm loving the experience thus far.

Personal tidbits
soul I am an avid reader and those who know me well know that I spend a lot of time reading success and spiritual books (especially when I'm embarking on a life transition). I read really good fiction and I usually follow up on recommendations from sources I trust. A while back I was getting into the Persian poets like Rumi and Hafiz. I also read about nutrition and diet. I'm currently a vegan. I also incorporate the practices of a raw foodist - one who eats uncooked fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. You can plug "raw food" into any search engine to read more about the raw foodist lifestyle. I love getting full body massages whenever I can afford them (which is not often enough!). I love to travel so I'm so glad that I've been able to do so as a musician. Music has taken me to all of the foreign countries I've visited: Japan, Chile, France, Spain, Italy, Canada, United Kingdom. I am truly blessed. I love relaxing as well. I'm not one of those workaholics year-round. I like to have R&R time because I do put my all into the projects in which I'm involved, so there has to be a balance. I love spending time with family, but usually the only time I get to do so is when my touring schedule hits those towns where my family members reside. I hope to change that in the near future and actually reserve more quality time with my folks. I enjoy a good concert, whether it's a music performance of any genre, theater, dance, mixed media - just as long as it's good quality. I would love to increase my concert-going schedule. If anyone asks a personal question, I usually am straightforward about the answer. I'm not a mysterious person by nature, but I'm also not naïve - one can't know all my business!! :p
I love nature. I wouldn't say that I'm an outdoors person as far as athletically, but I love being surrounded by trees, flowers, and clean air. The color green is therapeutic and my fellow musicians will often hear my cry, "I need to see some green" when my touring schedule is heavy and I've seen the inside of one too many hotel rooms. But to tell you the truth, I don't mind hotel rooms if I have one to myself. I love walking and I've been fortunate to live in towns (Boston, New York, and now Evanston, IL) that truly cater to the pedestrian.
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