SOCIAL JUSTICE THROUGH CLASSICAL MUSIC

Photo courtesy Madison Symphony Orchestra

Kelly Hall-Tompkins is an award-winning classical violinist, the “fiddler” (violin soloist) for Broadway productions of “Fiddler on the Roof” and a force for social justice. She founded Music Kitchen: Food for the Soul, a concert series at homeless shelters across the country, which has featured chamber music heavyweights Emanuel Ax, Carter Brey and others.

Now she’s adding Madison Symphony Orchestra soloist to this impressive list. She’ll perform in the local premiere of Wynton Marsalis’ “Violin Concerto” Jan. 21-23. We spoke with her about this dazzling piece, Music Kitchen and more.

Many music lovers know Wynton Marsalis as a jazz trumpet virtuoso, but he’s also a Juilliard-trained classical musician. What do you love about playing his violin concerto?

It not only shows the vast breadth of Marsalis’ knowledge and passion for the classical canon but flows seamlessly into Ellington-inspired jazz, blues and roots fiddling styles. After years of playing roots-inspired music with Mark O’Connor, performing jazz orchestrations and commercial styles at Carnegie Hall and appearing as a soloist on Broadway, I am a more genre-bending artist than I was earlier in my career. Before, I could have played the notes, but now I have a deep sense of this music and love everything about it.

Music Kitchen has touched more than 30,000 shelter residents since its beginnings in your church’s basement. What’s one thing its audiences have taught you?

I have learned that love of classical music is not waning. When we expand the idea of who the audience is, and perform with artistry, passion and imagination, not just perfectionism, people will love it time and time again.

Being a classical performer requires immense talent and hours of daily practice, yet you still find time to teach, write and even speak eight different languages. How?

I will work tirelessly to realize a vision. I love exploring all of the avenues that call me to create. I’m grounded because I genuinely love what I do. I work hard to reach my potential and I enjoy helping others do the same.


Madison Symphony Orchestra with Kelly Hall-Tompkins
Jan. 21-23, Overture Hall, Overture Center. overture.org

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