Quantcast
Ezinma in leopard print outfit holding her violin and bow
Photo credit: Nathan Johnson

Violinist Ezinma Shares How She Found Purpose In Music

Touring with Beyoncé and jamming with Stevie Wonder were just the beginning.

Exclusive Interviews

At face value, one might not think the classical composer Bach and the rapper Future could occupy the same space. However, classically trained violinist Meredith Ezinma Ramsay (also known as just Ezinma or “Classical Bae”) proved that it's a magical combination when she responded to the viral #MaskOffChallenge on Instagram in 2017 with a violin rendition of the rapper’s hit song.



“I was practicing a piece written by Bach,” the violinist tells XoNecole. “I just sort of had this idea: ‘What if I just sort of looped it?’” By looping, or continuously repeating, the classical piece with the “Mask Off” melody, Ezinma said that for the first time she created something that felt true to herself. She posted the video of her performing her classical rendition to Instagram “on a whim,” and not long after, the video took on a life of its own.

“[The video] just went viral, like crazy viral. I woke up the next day to 22,000 followers. I had two hundred the day before,” Ezinma recounts.

For the violinist, her interest in the violin began at just the age of four years old. “At the school I went to, they had a very small violin program. And just because I saw these kids with violins, I begged my parents if I could play,” she says. It took a bit of convincing for her parents to finally rent her a tiny violin, but once they gave in, Ezinma says that she was a natural at playing the instrument.

Her love for violins led Ezinma all the way to New York after she finished her undergraduate degree at the University of Nebraska where she studied both science and the violin. “[New York is] such a fertile ground as a creative person, especially as a musician, because there are so many genres everywhere,” she says. “You walk down the street, you hear jazz, or you see a hip hop club or a classical concert. So I was really in heaven.”

Not long after moving to New York, she received a phone call that changed her life while at the gym. “I was living in Harlem at the time and I get this call from this contractor in New York City. And she was like: ‘Hey, can you be at Central Park in 30 minutes? There’s a gig with Stevie Wonder. We're going to do a quick soundcheck. We need a violinist,’ for whatever reason, so-and-so fell through.” Ezinma recalls.

“There was no sheet music. There was hardly [any] rehearsal. It was just really being up there and jamming," she says. "And it was, I think for me, such a pivotal moment because it was super early on in my career. And when you show up for yourself and you see just how capable you are, it kind of empowers [you.]”

The experience of playing with the legendary musical genius who Ezinma says is her “favorite artist of all time,” reminded her of the old industry adage: “when you get the call, you better be ready.”

Another lesson Ezinma learned came after she toured with Queen Bey for years. Ezinma performed with Beyoncé and Jay-Z during the On The Run 2 tour, as well as Beyoncé’s iconic Coachella performance, Beychella, which became the Netflix documentary Homecoming. Still, Ezinma said in a 2020 interview that there was a part of her that felt unfulfilled, even after having achieved such an illustrious milestone in her career. “For me, purpose is very closely aligned with service,” she tells me after I ask her if she still feels that way now that more time has passed. “Success is great and awesome and it's wonderful, right? But, for me personally, just sort of doing things without getting to connect, especially with kids, it feels like I'm missing out on a really important part of the puzzle.”

Born in Lincoln, Nebraska, Ezinma was 13 years old and had been playing violin for nearly 10 years before she'd ever met another Black string musician. Now, she’s making it her mission to help more kids of color have access to string instruments and lessons.Recently, Ezinma founded the non-profit Strings by Heart which aims to bring classical music to underprivileged communities through education. “There's this really sobering statistic…that less than 4% of people in orchestras are Black or brown,” Ezinma says. “And when I saw that number – and also just based on my experience – it was like, gosh, how do we improve this?”

While going on a tour of schools in Harlem and the Bronx, she says that so many of the kids she met were natural when given an instrument. It’s reminiscent of her own early connection with the violin when she recalls how she doesn’t think she would’ve ever played the instrument if she had never seen those kids at her school playing the violin. “So much of what we do is because of what we're exposed to,” says Ezinma. “It's not because of a lack of talent among Black and brown people. It's really about a lack of opportunity.”

As for her own future, Ezinma hopes to broaden her musical talents onto the big screen. “I did my first project as a film composer maybe six years ago,” she tells me. “And I really, really loved it!” At the beginning of the pandemic Ezinma says that she decided to go back to school at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts to pursue a degree in film scoring. “I live and breathe music and that could either be on the violin, that can be on stage, that can be teaching, that can be film scoring. I really see it all as one.”

How To Turn A Hobby Into A Lucrative Business

There's always talk about creating a side hustle and having multiple streams of income, but what happens when you're already super-occupied, booked, blessed, and busy with the 9-to-5 you have on top of other responsibilities like managing a household, pursuing higher education, or loving on bae? Well, one of the best ways to leverage a great side hustle opportunity is to look into monetizing things you already do as hobbies.

Keep reading...Show less
The daily empowerment fix you need.
Make things inbox official.
Upgrade Your Morning Routine With This Simple Journaling Practice

As a writer, it can be fairly easy to succumb to the dreaded phase of creative block in my process. When the ideas flow, they feel light and airy, and the words leave my mind with little to no effort. And when they don't, I can easily find myself staring at my laptop, both overwhelmed and underwhelmed by the blank page in front of me. Filling the blank space with words no longer feels like second nature, and where there once was ease, there is suddenly resistance. Whether it’s due to burnout or the ideas are just not as free-flowing as I'm accustomed to, brain fog is real. However, through trial and error, I have learned that it is very possible to access creativity by exercising those areas of the mind.

Keep reading...Show less
The Power Couples In The Zodiac & Your Money Match Based On Astrology

When it comes to power couples in the zodiac, there are instant matches that make for love and financial compatibility. Some zodiac signs work better together than others, and considering financial challenges tends to make or break relationships--finding your money match is important. Not only that but there are certain signs in the zodiac that can enhance your financial world, just by being in it. Planetary energy in certain areas of your birth chart can provide higher success rates and opportunities, and compatibility energy varies by degree.

Keep reading...Show less
Halle Bailey Talks 'The Little Mermaid' Backlash & Having A Forever Best Friend In Sister Chloe

Halle Bailey won our hearts alongside her sister Chloe when their cover of Beyoncé’s “Pretty Hurts” went viral when they were just teenagers, and from there they have become Grammy-nominated artists as the group Chloe x Halle thanks to albums like Ungodly Hour and The Kids Are Alright. Now, their fans have more to look forward to as Halle will be starring as the Disney princess Ariel in the live-action remake of The Little Mermaid.

Keep reading...Show less
The Do's & Don'ts Of Having Sex On The Beach

I’ve never actually tasted a 'Sex on the Beach,' but I certainly have imagined doing it. In fact, I’ve had a lot of sex fantasies, but this remains to be one at the top of my list. However, I continue to harbor some fear because it seems that beach sex is no easy feat.

Keep reading...Show less
Exclusive Interviews
Latest Posts