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Published November 11 2010

Violin virtuoso brings poise and passion to Fargo

There’s a youthful energy about Tai Murray.

Her fresh-faced smile and lively voice are part of it. So is her sense of humor.

“Never been to North Dakota; never been to either Dakota,” Murray says with a laugh.

But don’t mistake Murray’s youthfulness for inexperience. When the 28-year-old violinist takes the stage to perform Saint-Saëns’ third violin concerto with the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra’s Masterworks concerts this weekend, she’ll bring an impressive musical résumé with her.

Her passion for the instrument goes back to the fifth grade, when Murray is said to have practiced five hours a day, though her interest in the violin began even earlier.

“Well, according to my family, I … asked for a violin when I was 2,” says Murray, who grew up in Chicago and Bloomington, Ind.

She would go on to study at Indiana University and began her work at the prestigious Juilliard School of Music at age 19. She won an Avery Fisher Career Grant in 2004 and was a BBC New Generation Artist from 2008 to 2010. She debuted with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at age 9 and performed as a soloist with the Utah Symphony at age 16.

Murray carries herself with a confidence befitting such experiences. FMSO Music Director Bernard Rubenstein says the concerto Murray will play with the FMSO is technically demanding and very virtuosic. But Murray takes such demands in stride.

“You know, for me it becomes about telling that story, and if flying 100 miles per hour is part of that story then that’s great,” says Murray, who now lives in Manhattan.

FMSO Concertmaster Benjamin Sung knew Murray “just casually” from his own days studying at Indiana University and remembers being struck by how composed she was and the absence of nervousness about her. He describes her playing even at that time as “elegant” and speaks of her “natural musicianship.”

Performing seems to be a labor of love for Murray.

“There’s a great energy there that’s built up between performer and audience,” she says. “It can be many things. It can be educational. It can be inspirational. It can be difficult. It can be (with ease) or not. And every audience is different and every situation is different. Every hall is different. And I really enjoy stepping into each of these situations which seem so similar but are all so different.”

Despite the quiet and reserved nature of a symphonic performance, Murray says she can feel the response of the audience as she plays.

“You know, it’s like a vibe,” she says. “It’s not something you can really put your finger on. It’s not something that you can say it’s this, you know, but it’s something that you definitely feel. I feel it very strongly.”

Murray’s stop in Fargo-Moorhead will be one of many for the well-traveled former child prodigy. She estimates that she spends an average of about four days a week on the road.

Her travels have taken her from Copenhagen to Shanghai to Carnegie Hall to Berlin.

But like the challenges of virtuosic music, the up-and-coming classical soloist takes the road in stride.

“It’s a lot of traveling,” she says, “but I love traveling so it works out pretty well.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Shane Mercer at (701) 451-5734