20 in their 20s

Violinist Chelsea Sharpe has performed at Carnegie Hall and the Hollywood Bowl and has been conducted by everyone from John Williams to Kanye West. As a fellow at the New World Symphony Orchestra in Miami, Sharpe is one of classical music’s rising stars — and she owes it all to her mom.

Sharpe’s mother, Tanya, had played the violin for one year in kindergarten before being forced to give it up because her family couldn’t afford private lessons. She was determined that her daughter would have a different experience. “She always wished she could continue,” Sharpe says. “Since I was her firstborn, she decided that I would kind of live out her dream.” Her mother sacrificed to ensure Sharpe had all the resources she needed to develop as a musician. 

After high school, Sharpe had to choose between attending a music conservatory like Juilliard or a university-based music school. She ended up picking Rice’s Shepherd School of Music and studying under Kathleen Winkler. “I liked the fact that the Shepherd School had the intensity of a conservatory, but also opportunities to explore other subjects and meet nonmusic students.” 

Sharpe’s mother, Tanya, had played the violin for one year in kindergarten before being forced to give it up because her family couldn’t afford private lessons. She was determined that her daughter would have a different experience. “She always wished she could continue,” Sharpe says.

While studying for her master’s degree at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music, Sharpe also took advantage of opportunities to record television and film soundtracks. In 2017, she won a fellowship with the New World Symphony Orchestra, a training academy with a reputation for sending graduates to the world’s top orchestras; only 35 fellows are selected each year. One of Sharpe’s favorite parts of the fellowship is the chance to mentor young musicians in Miami public schools. 

“When I talk to students, I always think about which of them might be future musicians,” Sharpe says. “After all, the only reason I started is because someone visited my mom’s school and taught her to play.” 

Read more “20 in Their 20s” profiles here.

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