written by Adé Williams for the ECO
Since I was four years old, I have had lots of fun sharing my music. When I was five my two cousins and I formed a string trio called SugarStrings, and we performed together quite often. We played in churches, weddings, schools, nursing homes, and fundraisers for good causes like support for orphans, AIDS, MS sufferers, etc.—that’s when we weren’t playing our more formal performances in halls and on news stations.
When I travel around the country (and sometimes outside the U.S.) to solo with orchestras, part of the excitement for me is doing outreach. I love going to schools, playing for students, talking with them, and connecting with them.
At almost every outreach session, either as a soloist or with a group, someone (or sometimes a lot of people) comes over afterward and tells me that he or she wants to start playing violin or feels motivated to practice. So rewarding. That’s an amazing bonus for me. At some point while doing these events, I realized that music is so much more than good entertainment. It’s so incredibly powerful that it adds meaning to people’s lives. For me to be able to do what I absolutely love, and for my work to be meaningful at the same time … I have the most fantastic “job” in the world! My hope for a very long time has been to change homeless people’s lives. My heart has always been particularly sensitive to them. I always felt sad when I passed someone on the street in freezing Chicago and wanted to help in some way.
Recently, I won From the Top’s Jack Kent Cooke Award, and as a part of that win I get to do a civic project with my music. What a perfect opportunity to combine my music with my desire to help the homeless people that I’ve wanted to help for years!
In Chicago, there are around 18,000 homeless children that go to public school every day, and around 3,500 who are unaccompanied. My specific plan for my From The Top project is to end child homelessness in Chicago Public Schools by throwing a huge benefit concert in downtown Chicago. I want to invite some of the homeless children to play in the concert. I would pick a group of them from around five to ten schools and teach them the violin.
I believe learning to play would bring them joy, a sense of hope, and fun like it does for me. They would also get to experience the thrill of playing on a big concert stage in front of a cheering audience, and they would also know that they’re helping themselves get homes.
If I could touch and help just a portion of them through my music and by giving them their own music, I’d be really happy and even more inspired. I’d be ready to tackle homelessness throughout all of Chicago and, hopefully, the country!
“Music can change the world, because music can change people’s lives.”