EXCLUSIVE: Transgender Violinist and Singer Tona Brown Takes Classicalite's Proust Questionnaire
I first read about Tona Brown, one of the Beltway's best singing violinists, in my colleague Tim Smith's pitch-perfect profile in the May 22, 2011 early edition of the Baltimore Sun.
To wit, I've been following Miss Brown's career--performer, pedagogue, activist--for the ensuing three years.
She's since played for Obama, the first transgender woman of color to concertize a sitting President. On the operatic stage, Miss Brown just finished singing in Puccini's Suor Angelica.
And her debut album, This Is Who I Am, finds a fine mezzo violinist honoring the legacy and influence of African Americans that remain underrated in the often prejudicial world of classical music. In fact, her rendition of pianist and composer Margaret Bond's setting of the great Langston Hughes poem "I, Too" (from the larger work Three Dream Portraits of 1959) is one of the best on record.
Meanwhile, Brown's studio since 2005, Aida Strings, has become one of the best music education incubators in the entire Balt-Wash area. Enrollment is at an all-time high, and the students under her training will soon number upon the next Sphinx Competition winners.
Now, Tona Brown is coming back to New York this summer to play and sing in an historic LGBT Pride concert at Carnegie Hall.
This time, though, she's the headliner.
In advance of this most pretigious, GLAAD-endorsed gig, not surprisingly, Miss Brown's Indiegogo campaign is already fully funded at $3,766. That's a testament to precisely how much she's admired within her communities; everyone who knows Tona believes in her abilities.
They want her to succeed. She always does, of course.
But you still have 40 days (that is, until May 25) to contribute whatever you can to help make LGBTQA musical history.
1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Being in a scenario where there is peace and quiet and wonderful music to listen to.
2. What is your greatest fear?
To work hard and not to succeed or be successful! I shudder to think of that.
3. Which historical figure do you most identify with?
There are a few: Marian Anderson, James Baldwin, Martin Luther King and Leontyne Price.
4. What is your favorite journey?
Discovering my voice.
5. On what occasion do you lie?
I don’t, usually. But if I did, it would be to protect someone I cared about.
6. What do you dislike most about your appearance?
Having such a round face.
7. Which living person do you most despise?
I’m not the kind of person to despise anyone, but I don’t like ANYONE that discriminates against others for ANY reason.
8. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Too many things! This phrase is perfect for so many situations: LOL.
9. What is your greatest regret?
I don’t really have any. I’m happy with all the choices I’ve made in life thus far. But I do wish I would have played for Dorothy Delay at Juilliard. I was too chicken to do it because I admired her so much--although she asked me and another girl from the Juilliard Experience took my place. WHAT WAS I THINKING?! LOL.
10. What or who is the greatest love of your life?
I always tell people that my music is the love of my life. Nothing compares to the joy that musical performance brings me.
11. Which talent would you most like to have?
I wish I was a great cook!
12. If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?
That we were poor.
13. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Performing the national anthem for President Barack Obama at the LGBT Leadership Conference in NYC.
14. What is your most treasured possession?
I’m not really a materialistic person. So, I don’t have one.
15. What is the quality you most like in a man?
Honesty. It’s rare in men.
16. What is the quality you most like in a woman?
I love and adore strong-willed and confident women.
17. Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
I love Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada, it's still one of my favorite movies.
18. Who are your heroes in real life?
My heroes were my mother, aunt and grandmother...all of whom passed away.
19. What is it that you most dislike?
Any sort of discrimination, racism, prejudice, phobia or bigotry against people that are different.
20. What is your motto?
I have two:
1. Live your life to the fullest because you only have ONE life to live!
2. Don’t worry about what other people think, do or say about you. Shine your own light in this world and concentrate on your wants, needs and desires.