Cellist and CMPI mentor Lindsey Sharpe embodies an important truth about professional musicians: “Musicians are hustlers,” she explained. “I will always have more than one job. I want to have it all: perform in an orchestra full time, play chamber music and as a soloist, keep doing more for the community, and teaching.” She seems to be well on her way. Sharpe is currently an orchestral fellow with the Chicago Sinfonietta and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, leads community engagement projects, and builds valuable skills such as public speaking and grant-writing. She is a cello sectional coach for Gallistel Language Academy, a Chicago Public School, and will soon begin teaching cello at the Merit School of Music.
While Sharpe has completed her formal musical training with degrees in cello performance from the University of Michigan and Rice University, she sees herself in the CMPI fellows she mentors. A graduate of the Atlanta Symphony’s Talent Development Program (TDP), Sharpe knows all too well the path that CMPI’s fellows are on. “I have daunting memories of sitting in advisories with my teacher and [CMPI Project Advisor] Adrienne Thompson,” Sharpe recalled. “Ms. Thompson asked me ‘why do you play out of tune?’ and I still remember that.”
Sharpe joined TDP at age 10. “From then on, I had everything I needed,” she recalled. “I had private lesson support. I could attend Atlanta Symphony Orchestra concerts whenever I wanted. I received support that helped me attend summer camps like Meadowmount, Brevard, and Tanglewood. That’s where I really fell in love, because I met other students from around the world who were serious about music.”
TDP also gave Sharpe one of her most memorable musical experiences to date. “For the 25th anniversary of TDP, the program invited TDP alums to come back and perform with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Khari Joyner, Xavier Foley and Imani Winds performed as soloists; it was an unapologetically black experience, and inspiring to get to sit next to the musicians who I grew up listening to.”
As a new resident of Chicago, Sharpe sees a richness of resources for young musicians. “I love the network of musicians here,” Sharpe said of Chicago. “Young musicians and young black musicians who are all here supporting each other.”
Now, Sharpe is in a position to pay forward the support and guidance she received in TDP as a CMPI mentor. “I love my mentees,” she shared. “They always want to play their repertoire for me, but we always talk for the first 20-30 minutes.”
“I see myself in them because they’re still navigating music, and they’re at the age where they start comparing themselves to other people. I always tell them not to focus on other people and just focus on themselves. I wish someone had told me that at their age,” Sharpe added.