Welcome to MMI’s Fellow Spotlight series featuring our amazing teaching artists. Not only do MMI Fellows lend their talents to supporting and engaging Memphis youth all over the city, but they also help build and sustain our arts ecosystem through their independent projects.

Today, meet violinist Yennifer Correia! Yennifer has been with MMI since 2015, and has worked with students at Hickory Ridge MS, Mt. Pisgah MS, JP Freeman, East STEM High School, and Colonial MS. In addition to working with MMI youth, Yennifer is a member of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, on the Board of Directors for the Memphis Youth Symphony Program, and is a faculty member at PRIZM. She has performed at venues across the country and around the globe. She recently chatted with MMI about discovering her love of music, becoming a Memphian, and life in quarantine with a one-year-old. 

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I am originally from Caracas, Venezuela. Growing up in Venezuela was great because we have no seasons—we basically have a long summer, then a few months of rain, and then “winter” when it gets a bit cooler. In my opinion, we have perfect weather all year round.

Also, I come from a big family so it was nice to have people you love always nearby. That’s something I miss a lot since moving to the US. 

 

How Music Found Her

One day when I was in kindergarten, a teacher from one of the most prestigious schools in Caracas came to my school to recruit some students for their music program. We had a general music class and I was introduced to the violin.

Immediately I was captivated by the sound of it, and the teacher noticed. So I did a few follow-up lessons. Then, she told my parents that she saw potential in me and that the school would like to offer me a full scholarship from elementary school through high school, plus free violin lessons! This school not only provided all the regular academic classes, but also had a music conservatory. I would attend regular school but, during certain parts of my day, I had to attend private violin lessons, orchestra class, and chamber music. It was amazing! Teachers from all over the world came to teach at this school, so from a young age I was exposed to all kinds of people from different cultures and backgrounds. 

When I graduated high school, the school offered to help pay for my musical studies in the US. 

 

On Becoming A Memphian

I moved to Memphis in August of 2012. My husband and I were living in Houston at the time finishing our studies at Rice University and my husband won a Principal Clarinet position with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. 

I love Memphis’ music scene because there is something for everybody. Memphis has tons of potential to be a major cultural center because of its rich musical history. It’s growing and evolving every year.

I was recently appointed as a Second Violin with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. Before becoming a mom last year, I was constantly traveling and performing with orchestras all over the US. Most recently I performed with the Arkansas Symphony, Missouri Symphony, and the Louisiana Philharmonic, which invited me to be part of their Carnegie Hall debut in a tribute to Philip Glass. 

I started working for MMI in 2015. During the last 5 years I have taught at Hickory Ridge MS, Mt. Pisgah MS, JP Freeman, East STEM High School, and Colonial MS. What I have learned throughout my years of teaching is that every student is different and we have to celebrate their accomplishments, big or small. I love pushing my students to do things that they believe are out of their reach and proving to them that they are capable of anything they want if they put in the work and dedication.  

Apart from teaching for MMI, I am a member of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, on the Board of Directors for the Memphis Youth Symphony Program, and I am a faculty member at PRIZM. I feel like all these organizations are doing a great job at developing opportunities for creative expression, particularly in the Black and Latinx communities.

One piece of advice I would give young musicians who are planning to pursue a career in music is to start thinking early on what you would like to do with your music degree once you graduate college. Do you want be a teacher? Do you want to play in an orchestra? Do you want to work in the music business/administration side of it? The earlier you figure this out and start working towards that specific goal, the more chances you will have to get a good job after you graduate. 

 

On Performance, Practicing, and the Pandemic 

What I love the most about playing and performing is getting to experience the sense of camaraderie between the musicians in order to create a great performance. I love seeing the audience enjoy the experience and listening to their comments after the concert. 

During the pandemic, I have been able to keep playing and teaching some students online. I think, like everyone else, one day you feel super productive and like you can conquer anything, and other days all you want to do is sit down on the couch and take a break from all the crazy stuff that’s happening. I have a one-year-old son so taking a break is almost impossible, but both my husband and I are so happy to get to spend all this time with our baby and seeing him grow.  

I cannot wait for all this to be over and resume our lives in a safe manner! I cannot wait to take my son to the zoo or the park, see my friends in person and hug them, and of course play live music again in front of an audience.