Through the eyes of a street performer

Philadelphia has many eye-catching sights and livelihoods that seize your attention as you walk throughout the city. 

Whether it be a group of individuals on Dirtbikes, a  Mural, Skaters making their way to center city, or some obscure interesting activity going on, it’s no debate that the ongoing action in Philly never ceases to amaze. 

In particular, the street performing music scene in the city. As there are many artists in the city trying to showcase their musical talent and skills, I was able to catch up with local Philly artist Faith, the Violinist. 

For her main spot,  Faith chooses the Whole Foods on 9th & South street.The location has very good foot traffic and she is familiar with the staff at the store.  Faith also plays at the corridors above ground at dilworth park, before covid when she was younger she also used to play in suburban station and even further going to New York to play in high bustling areas like Soho. 

Friends are a big influence in her street performances, giving her the confidence and support to stand up there and perform. She also has an ensemble with her group of friends which adds to her influence in music. 

Most of her life she was trained in playing classical music, until her teenage years when she started booking small gigs and shows. She has performed at the Kimmel center, the Dell center and the Mann center, and in fact very soon she’ll be playing her first upcoming solo show at the Mann center.

“Street performing just really keeps me going. When I’m out there it’s so many people who’re inspired by me just playing in general”.

  Faith originates from north philly, feltonville to be exact. 

Growing up, her siblings played instruments and her dad was a music producer who mainly worked with local Philadelphia rap and soul artists, and her mom was a high school teacher in Philly.

Growing up it would be very uncommon and weird if music wasn’t playing around or in my environment.”

At first Faith grew up playing the clarinet but didn’t really like it, she then tried the violin because her sister was playing it, then the rest was history from there. 

She started playing violin once a week at that time, then it grew to a point where she was playing for almost 6 hours a day, working on her craft and getting better. 

The other string instruments in her household consists of guitars and cellos, and she sometimes uses them for making music in music programs like Logic or Pro tools.  

Because I’m black and playing the violin, I really feel like a lot of white people tap in. I feel like it’s the “nice” music they’d rather hear than someone bumping loud music down the street, but in my head it’s funny because I like that loud bumping music because that’s the Philly culture, especially when it gets warm out. 

Playing the violin definitely contributes to me getting more tips, it’s the nicer part white people wanna hear, if I was out there playing a different instrument or a different type of music I wouldn’t be getting money the same way.

Even though it’s music, people forget that race can still play a significant part in the path to success.

Besides the melodies and songs you can catch faith playing publicly, she has music that is licensed in a documentary called “sisters of soil”, she’s licensed the music for the film and now since its out she’s finally releasing the tracks. 

Even though Faith had the opportunity and privilege to go to a performing arts school in her younger years she’s aware of the gaps for the youth within having access and opportunity to learn and play music. 

A lot of things are inaccessible in Philly public schools. There are minimal programs to help students learn instruments and explore their talents. The music industry is very cliquey and not as open to everyone as it should be.”

Being a product of her environment, Faith expressed how contradictory it is that schools want the most for their students and want them to explore their interests for the youth, but yet there’s very little opportunity in that. 

Outside of school, there should be free programs that motivate the youth, especially younger children who can learn music. 

“It’s truly scary to me how many little kids come up to me, especially younger black kids, who never even seen a violin before” 

For some time she was enrolled at University of the Arts but during her time there she didn’t feel it was the place to be for her to grow as a musician nor the place to finish her college education. 

Faith mentioned that in her program at University of the Arts, there were a few things that didn’t click, the community didn’t help her grow as an artist, there weren’t really any violinists, and there were a lot of individuals trying to be DJ’s and Hip hop artists. Ultimately she felt uncomfortable in the program and felt like an outlier. 

She’s currently finishing her Business degree at Western Governor University, which is an online University. 

I really appreciate my city a lot. I feel as though I’m a product of what happens when you give children a chance to be what they want to be. 

I don’t think that’s registered with me up until now, there’s more people like me out there, coming from the same background trying to achieve success.” 

Faith’s still trying to expand, joining other communities of music on her journey. But in the meantime she’s going to continue in her career as a performer for a long time. Hopefully going tours and when she’s decided to be done being a performer, she wants to use her business degree to create opportunities for those who do not have access to learning music and give back to her neighborhood and community as much as she can in the future. 

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