Watch A Video About Melissa White

From the Top

Young Violinist's Stick-With-It Attitude Pays Off

I first met violinist Melissa White during the second season of From the Top, when she performed the Introduction & Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 28 by Saint-Saëns at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

Then 16, White was also a recent winner of the Sphinx Competition for young black and Latino string players. When I interviewed her, I was surprised to learn that she hadn't always been so passionate about the violin. Like some other young musicians I've met, she went through a period where she questioned whether she wanted to stick with it.

"I'd go up to my room to practice, and I'd find I didn't have much motivation and it wasn't fun anymore," White said. She even went through a period of about five months where she stopped playing music altogether. After landing a summer job teaching music to younger children, her musical fire was rekindled and she picked up the violin again.

"Teaching was the best experience for me, because when you teach, you learn so much," she told the audience at the Library of Congress. "It made me think about music and brought the fun back into it for me."

Since then, White has graduated from the Curtis Institute, taken graduate courses at New England Conservatory and appeared as a soloist with many of the nation's leading orchestras. She reappeared on From the Top this year as part of our 10th-anniversary celebration, and after performing a beautiful rendition of a movement from Violin Sonata No. 3 by Brahms, we talked about her current gig.

Now 25, White tours the country with one of the nation's hottest young chamber groups, the Harlem Quartet, which is composed of four first-prize Sphinx Competition Laureates. The group focuses on bringing music to diverse audiences, and has played in venues ranging from public schools in the Bronx to the White House. Her love for teaching serves her well when the quartet does residency programs in schools across the country. This fall, the Harlem Quartet begins the New England Conservatory's Professional String Quartet Training Program.

"Being in a chamber group is the best of all worlds," she says. "I get to be soloistic at times, I get to play chamber music, and instead of traveling by myself, when I go off to concertize, I have three friends who come with me. We have our ups and our downs, and we have our stories... but that's the thing; we have those stories together. It's been a lot of fun, and I feel really lucky."

[+] read more[-] less

More From Classical

Tiny Desk Concert with Jason Vieaux and Yolanda Kondonassis. Meredith Rizzo/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Meredith Rizzo/NPR

Tiny Desk

Jason Vieaux And Yolanda Kondonassis

Watch the Grammy-winning guitarist and acclaimed harpist play music influenced by Africa and Asia.

Viola da gamba master Jordi Savall leads his ensemble Le Concert des Nations in a performance at Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall on Apr. 16, 2015. AJ Wilhelm for NPR hide caption

itoggle caption AJ Wilhelm for NPR

Carnegie Hall Live

Jordi Savall And Le Concert Des Nations

WQXR radio

Hear the consummate master of early music lead an exhilarating program of French compositions.

Listen Loading… 2:21:40
  • Playlist
  • Embed
    Embed <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/347126561/401021961" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">

Tiny Desk Concert with Anonymous 4 on March 4. Emily Jan/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Emily Jan/NPR

Tiny Desk

Anonymous 4 With Bruce Molsky

The a cappella quartet, with banjo and fiddle, offers popular songs from the Civil War era.

András Schiff takes late sonatas by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert to Carnegie Hall. AJ Wilhelm/for NPR hide caption

itoggle caption AJ Wilhelm/for NPR

Carnegie Hall Live

András Schiff Plays Mozart, Haydn, Schubert And Beethoven At Carnegie Hall

WQXR radio

On March 10, hear the eminent pianist in a solo recital of sublime masterworks.

Listen Loading… 2:03:37
  • Playlist
  • Embed
    Embed <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/347112344/392189990" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">

Baritone Thomas Hampson brings a Civil War-themed program to Carnegie Hall Feb. 9, 2015. Kristine Hoebermann hide caption

itoggle caption Kristine Hoebermann

Carnegie Hall Live

Thomas Hampson Sings A World Premiere

WQXR radio

Hear the beloved American baritone sing a new work by Jennifer Higdon in this recital.

Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a concert of powerhouse orchestral works at Carnegie Hall. AJ Wilhelm for NPR Music hide caption

itoggle caption AJ Wilhelm for NPR Music

Carnegie Hall Live

The Chicago Symphony Plays A Colorful Concert

WQXR radio

Hear the CSO and its charismatic conductor Riccardo Muti in a program of Scriabin and Debussy.

Listen Loading… 2:00
  • Playlist
  • Embed
    Embed <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/347102210/382739058" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">
Back To Top