Earl Ross

What do you do at Walker West?
I am an advocate and an evangelist for string education. Translation: I teach violin and viola.

Instrument(s)?
Violin and viola

What style(s) of music do you teach/play?
I teach classical and have occasionally jammed a bit on jazz, gospel and hip hop.

Hometown?
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

What are some performance/professional highlights?
Playing with the late James Frazier in the National Black Symphony Orchestra and performing on stage at the Dakota Jazz Club with friends

What was your first gig?
When I was in 13, I was asked to perform as a strolling violinist for an event given by my school principal. She’d heard me play in a production of Rogers and Hammerstein’s Carousel and knew I could do solo work. It was fun and I was paid!

Favorite Walker West memory/experience?
I suppose this question should be qualified with a “so far,” since I’d like to think that many new favorite memories/experiences are still yet to happen. That said, among my favorite experiences have been watching students who struggle with a piece of music, only to perform it superbly in recital. The sense of accomplishment expressed on the faces of my students is… well… priceless.

Musical influences?
There are many, but most prominent are my teachers and probably my dad, who is a jazz musician. I say “probably” because while I’m not a jazz musician, and didn’t fully embrace this music genre until I was an adult, hearing my dad perform, marveling at his ability to discern key signatures of random songs we’d hear on the car radio, and discussing the importance of the “attack” in music performance from an early age had and continue to have an impact on how I listen to and perform music.

Favorite album?
Too many to name – and it really depends. Bach’s Unaccompanied Violin Sonatas and Partitas performed by Henryk Szeryng or Rachel Podger – which are completely different interpretations – will always be at or near the top of any list of mine. The first album I owned (at 12), Szeryng doing the Brahms’ Violin Concerto, still occupies a spot among my favorites too, as does just about anything performed by violinist David Oistrakh.

Why is music education so important?
More than any of the other liberal arts, music integrates literacy, math, scientific inquiry, logic, history and the arts seamlessly. Music develops the mind in boundlessly imaginative ways by fostering critical thinking, problem solving, risk taking, courage, collaboration, empathy and creativity – the stuff we want to see in all good citizens. Music education is important because it prepares students to converse across cultures and across time.

Advice to young musicians?
Practice smartly (with a purpose), be patient with yourself, and try to have fun in the process!