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Rising Star Ezinma: “I would love to start a movement that’s about living your passion; the world would be such a better place if people felt fulfillment and excitement from what they get to do every day”

I would love to start a movement that’s about living your passion. It’s one of the main reasons I was drawn to, and resonate with, my partnership with Essentia. No matter what you want to do, it’s about putting in the work and following your dreams. I know not everyone gets the luxury to earn […]


I would love to start a movement that’s about living your passion. It’s one of the main reasons I was drawn to, and resonate with, my partnership with Essentia. No matter what you want to do, it’s about putting in the work and following your dreams. I know not everyone gets the luxury to earn a living doing what they love, but I think the world would be such a better place if people felt fulfillment and excitement from what they get to do every day.


As a part of my series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Ezinma. Ezinma (eh-zeen-ma) is a classically-trained, genre-blending violinist, educator, composer, and model. This Brooklyn-based artist has worked with Stevie Wonder, Beyoncé, Yo-Yo Ma, Kendrick Lamar, Swizz Beatz, and Jorja Smith, to name a few. Ezinma’s sound fuses her classical background with hip-hop beats and bass lines, resulting in a fresh new genre — classical trap. She has won the hearts of millions through her viral social media covers. Additionally, Ezinma and her violin have been featured in global campaigns for brands such as Gap, Adidas, and Essentia Water. Ezinma recently signed to Universal Classics and will release her debut project in Spring of 2020.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I’m originally from Lincoln, Nebraska. I grew up in a mixed race and blended family. My parents are both quirky, intellectual professors. To paint the picture; my dad does actuarial science (which is crazy math) and my mom does creative non-fiction (she is a writer.) I was the straight-A kid who wasn’t allowed to date until I graduated from high school. My dad (who is from Guyana) was really strict. I begged my parents for a violin when I was three or four years old. At first, they were skeptical, but they finally gave in and rented me a violin. My parents made me practice, but I was self-motivated. I’ve always been driven and resilient. The coolest thing about my upbringing is that my parents taught me to ask questions, learn and then apply that knowledge. Growing up, I was always empowered to use my voice and I was taught that my opinions matter.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

When I was in college, I originally wanted to be a doctor. I studied pre-medicine and violin performance with a minor in math. If I’m being truthful, it was a lot. I remember my sophomore year I realized I really wanted to pursue my passion — music — and that I was studying medicine to appease my dad. I imagined my adult life without music, and it made me sad. I committed my first “rebellious” act at 18, and told my parents I wanted to become a professional violinist. After I graduated from school, I started touring with bands and living the musician lifestyle in New York. It was a blast — so many crazy and wild moments. It was like that shy-nerdy Nebraskan girl came out of her cocoon. It was a transformation because I stepped into who I was meant to be.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Where do I begin?! I remember when I was so broke in New York. My friend hit me up and asked if I wanted to play at swinger parties. That was definitely the most “non-traditional” performance space I’ve ever played at. Ha!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Always do your research. I remember Beyoncé’s musical director sent me a Facebook message asking if I would want to work with Beyoncé and her band. Initially, the opportunity seemed so vague because of the very strict NDA. The musical director couldn’t tell me what exactly the opportunity was, nor the name of the artist with whom I’d be collaborating. The furthest he went into detail was by saying “My client, she loves you. She thinks you would be a great fit.” I responded something to the effect of, “Uh…ok. Who is your client?” He of course couldn’t tell me, so I initially turned it down. Of course, I ended up accepting the opportunity after all, and working with Beyoncé changed my life. That said, always be open to new opportunities!

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

So many exciting projects to share! This year, I partnered with Essentia Water for their “It Might As Well Be You” campaign. The message really resonates with me and is truly important. “It Might As Well Be You” is all about empowering people to get up, get out and do the thing that they really want to do — no matter what it may be, or how big of a challenge it may be. With dedication and resilience, we can all take steps towards reaching our goals — even if that means practicing and enduring one day at a time. I’m also currently working on a short film. I’m writing the music for it, which is pretty cool. I’m finishing up my debut short film project, which will be out in spring of 2020. Moving into the next phase of the project, I’m getting ready for the actual filming, which I’ve never done. Ultimately, I’m going to be featured in a documentary that will depict my life. This blows my mind. I sometimes ask myself, “Y’all want to watch a film about my life?” It’s unbelievable and I’m grateful.

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

It is so important to have visibility and representation. Growing up in Nebraska, I never had that. I was the only black girl playing violin. All the violin recordings I listened to were (predominantly) of white men. I LOVED the violin as a kid, but I wasn’t aware of how alone I felt until I was in middle and high school. As I continued to study and play, I deeply felt I was in a space where I didn’t belong. I wanted to pave my own way for a style of music that fit ME. Now, I want to invite more people of color to feel comfortable in classical spaces and in spaces where we are unfortunately still underrepresented. I want to inspire little girls like me who long to see another violinist who looks like them. The more representation we have, the richer our culture becomes because we will have greater diversity of voices, sounds, ideas, and more.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. You have to remember you are a creator. Just create — no matter what. Tired, uninspired or sad, just get in there and MAKE SOMETHING. In some ways, quantity does matter over quality — especially in the beginning stages. Mozart wrote over 600 pieces. Of course, they are all incredible because it is Mozart, but not every work was to the level of “The Magic Flute” for instance. I think as artists we sometimes want to self-edit so everything we create is masterful. There is a time and place for editing, but when it’s time to create, turn off the self-judgment and go wild! You can always change, redo, fix, and edit.
  2. Have a great lawyer! The music industry can be a tough space, new artists are so easy to take advantage of, so protect yourself. Lawyers are expensive, but it is incredibly worth it.
  3. When you put yourself out there, criticism will come. Especially in the social media era we live in. Don’t let it get to you. I’ve been trolled so many times, and to be honest I take it as a good sign. You want people to have visceral reactions to what you do. Negative responses to what I do used to really get me down, but now it’s like, “Thanks for that feedback, next!”
  4. Don’t ever try to fit in a mold. Actually, create the mold!
  5. It is so important to share. Don’t be stingy. Whether it’s with money, or wanting to give people advice, or connecting people with industry stakeholders. We are all trying to do the best we can, so let’s just help each other.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

It is important to fill your creative tank with all sorts of inspiration. I think of creativity as a food

pantry — if you aren’t fully stocked with exotic and tasty ingredients, it’s pretty hard to make a delicious meal. I’ve learned to see my “work” as more than time spent with my instrument, or in the studio. My “work” is also going to concerts, exploring new music, visiting art exhibits, reading, traveling…when you see the world as inspiration, it’s impossible to burn out.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I would love to start a movement that’s about living your passion. It’s one of the main reasons I was drawn to, and resonate with, my partnership with Essentia. No matter what you want to do, it’s about putting in the work and following your dreams. I know not everyone gets the luxury to earn a living doing what they love, but I think the world would be such a better place if people felt fulfillment and excitement from what they get to do every day.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I’m one hundred percent grateful for my violin teacher Laurie Smukler. When I was studying at the New School, I remember she told me “I was different.” She really encouraged me to become a “violin star.” It’s funny because she is very deeply into classical performance, so she didn’t really know what a “violin star” meant, or what that career would look like. But she totally believed in me and she saw something in me — something that is bigger than classical music.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I love the idea that “what is for me will be there.” It is so easy to compare yourself to other people, especially in this age of social media. Rejection is tough for all of us, but what I remember is: If I’m working as hard as I can, surrounding myself with great people, maintaining a healthy balance in my life, and exuding positive energy, what is for me will come. I trust that. I know there is abundance in this world, and we can all win.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Hans Zimmer! I would love to just pick his brain. Such a brilliant film composer and musician — like what is

your process? Where do you begin? Coffee or tea? Are you a night owl or lark? You like cats or dogs? Yes, I’d ask all those dorky questions and some real ones.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Sure, you can follow me at @iamezinma, and I respond to DMs.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!

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