Recently, the United States Secret Service invited me to perform at their Headquarters for Unity Day 2017. Unity Day serves to create cultural awareness through prominent guest speakers in our nation, music, culturally themed rooms, and food. I initially struggled to figure out what I could play for Agents and Directors of various programs within the service. I wanted to create an atmosphere of peace in which resembled the times I play in Hospitals and Hospice.
I’ve had the opportunity to play for Unity Day in the past but this time felt different. Last year, I performed a tribute during the opening ceremony in remembrance of the fallen heroes within the Secret Service. Service members who risked their lives for the greater good. I remember last year being so nervous because I stood in front of a room full of people consisting of the Director of the Secret Service and seemingly everyone who had immense power within the Service. When my time came, I readied my violin to play My Heart Will Go On by Celine Dion. After the ceremony, I went to put my violin away and hide but told myself to have the courage and talk to as many people as possible in the room with my violin in hand. I shook hands with the Director and he said that he enjoyed and appreciated my music. I spoke with different program directors and they all smiled as they shared their own connections with the tribute song. Some Agents had remembered me from before and jokingly called me the Secret Service Violinist.
This year felt like a homecoming. I saw familiar faces and embraced those who I had not seen since last year. Instead of performing a tribute, I had an hour to play on the stage right outside the main room on the lower level. The beauty of Secret Service Headquarters is that its interior reminds me of a mall. The glass side stairwells and marble wall panels broadcast sounds throughout the entire building allowing for amplification and clarity of sound for musical instruments. As I played Summertime from Porgy and Bess I could hear each note ping off the walls to the top floor. I remember smiling as people sat down and closed their eyes to listen. I looked up and saw heads peer over the banisters on each floor to watch me perform. I felt the music traveling in the air like a vapor seeping into the offices of different departments and programs. When I finished playing I was escorted throughout the building to see workshops and demonstrations scheduled for the day. I recall someone asking if I was the Violinist who played Somewhere Over the Rainbow. He shared that he could hear the violin from his office chair and took a break from his work to watch me perform from the stairwell.
I realize that I’m blessed to be able to play in unique and unexpected places for people. I've come to learn that whether I’m playing for the Director of the Secret Service or a patient in Hospice, I find that music bridges the gap of awkwardness between people. I’m amazed at where I perform and will continue to show that much is possible with a violin, willing spirit, engaging attitude, and love.