This Pirate leads and
connects through music.
Music is heritage for ECU's Florrie Marshall
Violinist Florrie Marshall was born to perform.
“Both of my grandparents on my dad’s side were teachers and performers,” said Marshall, a recent graduate of the East Carolina University School of Music. “My grandfather played violin and the viola just like I do. Right when I was born, I was immersed in that kind of atmosphere.”
For her family, music was a way of life, said Marshall. She has carried on the tradition since her first violin lesson with her grandfather.
“He couldn’t get around that easily, but I remember him sitting in his chair with his really thick glasses and holding me up,” said Marshall. “That’s probably my earliest memory of being around that. He passed away a couple years after my first lesson with him.”
Marshall’s lessons were taken over by her grandfather’s sister, former Juilliard violin instructor Dora Mullins.
“My early teen years, I would stay over a couple nights a week with my aunt, so I would get a couple of days’ worth of lessons,” said Marshall. “That kind of intensive study I think really contributed to my success.”
By the age of 17, Marshall was ready to take auditions for colleges, but her plans stalled when a car accident left her with severe injuries to her upper back and neck.
“After that accident, my aunt Dora built me back up from scratch, starting out with five minutes a day, increments of ten minutes a day…to four or five hours a day,” said Marshall. “It was really during that time when I was separated from music that I knew I couldn’t stand to be away from it.”
Marshall waited two years before taking auditions again.
Once accepted to ECU, she paid her way through school, offering violin lessons, performing at local events and working part-time in the School of Music administrative office.
“I set up a makeshift recording studio in my dorm room, resting microphones on towel racks and also hanging them off of my bunk bed in Scott Hall,” said Marshall. “I would lay down tracks of myself playing along with a click track or prerecorded material in headphones. I would send the tracks to my colleagues and they would throw my tracks in the mix and send me a small check in the mail.”
By her senior year, Marshall was appointed concertmaster of the ECU Symphony Orchestra, sitting first chair.
“It’s a great place of leadership so whether it comes to the technical questions that people in the orchestra may have or conveying the general music gestures, a lot of responsibility falls on the concertmaster.”
As an undergrad, Marshall also took part in the Four Seasons Next Generation Concert Series, performing across the Southeast with faculty and guest artists during a weeklong residency.
“When we take that project on tour, we act as ambassadors for ECU, but also we take the role of mentor and teacher…we get to work with the students on tours where we visit,” said Marshall. “It’s really astounding to be able to turn around and be the educator in that setting.”
Marshall graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in violin performance. Now, she has traded in her violin for the larger viola while completing a one-year artist diploma program called the certificate of advanced performing studies.
At the completion of her program, Marshall plans to apply for graduate school to pursue a master’s degree in viola performance.
What is music to you?
I think on one hand, it’s this thing that you become obsessed with. It gets inside your head and you can’t stop thinking about it. You don’t want to stop thinking about it. Building your technique and thinking about phrasing and the sound worlds that you want to create becomes a thing that you can’t stop doing. You can’t just turn it off. On the other hand, music is a way of expressing emotions without words. [Imagine] you are sitting down in an audience. The person you came to see walks out on stage, sits down or stands and as soon as they start, you’re immediately transported to a world that they’re completely creating in front of you. Without words…you can feel instantaneously transported back to a world that you’ve felt before or that you’ve never felt before.
Ultimately, it’s about reaching people in your audience and connecting with them and making them feel like their emotions and feelings are validated. In a broad sense, it builds a community when a room full of people can share that experience.
Describe your dream job.
I would like to open a preparatory music school for the most talented middle and high school aged students. I wish to incorporate my teaching and performing by bringing in guest artists and giving concerts for students to observe and participate in alongside the professional artists. Students of any age learn best by total immersion, and that is what I aim to do for future generations of music students.
Why did you decide to attend ECU?
When my great aunt was on the faculty at Juilliard, she worked closely with a man named Joseph Fuchs. One of his last students at Juilliard before he passed away was Ara Gregorian, who is a violin professor at ECU. That sort of musical heritage was enticing for me and it just seemed like a really good fit. It was not that far from home and also I had heard the string program was at a very high level. Also my aunt had sent several students to this program and all had good results after they graduated.
Photography by: Cliff Hollis
Written by: Summer Tillman
College: Fine Arts and Communication: School of Music
Major: Violin Performance – Viola Performance, CAPS
Class: Enrolled in ECU CAPS Program, Alumna 2015
Hometown: Newport News, Virginia
Clubs & Organizations: Four Seasons Chamber Music Festival, NewMusic@ECU Festival, Pi Kappa Lambda Honor Society (Beta Zeta Chapter), American Federation of Musicians (District 500)
Place on Campus: Fletcher Recital Hall. Many late night quartet rehearsals, recording projects, and wonderful concerts have occurred in that space.
Hangout: Anywhere outside in nice weather.
Place to Eat: EC Pho
Class: Musical Aesthetics and Criticism – Dr. Kevin Moll
TV Show: I usually fall asleep to "Parenthood" or "Friends"...and "I Love Lucy."
Musician/band: Bach, Stephan Grappelli, Hye-Jin Kim
Movie: "White Christmas"
Most Influential Professor: Hye-Jin Kim, my violin professor. She embodies finesse of the highest level not only concerning her artistry in music, but also her leadership and guidance as a teacher and mentor.
You Can't Live Without: Meditation and centering. As a performer, it is critical to be able to channel your energy in the proper ways, to ensure the best results. Of course, I’m still working on it, but that’s a lifelong endeavor.
Role Model: My great-aunt Dora Mullins. She’s 88 years old and still teaching and performing on the violin. She has been a guide and mentor for me over the years, musically and beyond. Her wisdom and commitment to seeing my success has rivaled few others.
Words to Live By: Fresh equals success. You always perform (whatever your area of expertise is) at your peak when you’re well rested and have cared for your body. Be kind to yourself. Be aware of what nutrients you put in your body. Get good sleep, and drink plenty of water.
Advice for fellow students: Learn to enjoy the journey. For goal-oriented people like myself, it is easy to be consumed with end results and final performances. The most satisfying work, however, is in the practice room, when you get down to the nitty-gritty and you’re closely inspecting every note that goes by. Playing music at a high level is tough, as is rising to the top in any field, but to learn your craft inside and out takes a lifelong and daily commitment to excellence.
Something cool about ECU you wish you knew during your first year: I wish I had known that you could pay up to six hours at a time on the parking meters around campus.
"Fresh equals success. You always perform . . . at your peak when you’re well rested and have cared for your body. Be kind to yourself."
– Florrie Marshall