Orlando, FL — Leah Flynn is a violin soloist. Her father, Lennox Flynn, a self-taught musician, realized Leah’s gift, as he noticed her tinker on the family’s keyboard, playing actual melodies when she was 3-years old. Leah discovered her passion for playing the violin at the age of five. By age six, she brilliantly performed the Disney Frozen “Let It Go” sequence on violin, in its entirety. Video footage of that performance is now viral on YouTube with 2.2 million views. At age seven, she began playing violin by ear and joined the Orlando Youth Orchestra soon after.
By age nine, she was the concertmaster, lead musician for a large repertory, comprised of mostly teen musicians. Leah is what many call a music prodigy.
Now, at age eleven, Leah practices daily for 2-3 hours, is already proficient in reading music and is actively studying classical music through a private tutor.
Understanding Leah has an exceptional gift has made this expense a necessary investment. She has a keen ear, a sharp memory, and her aptitude for violin performance is undeniable. Leah is currently a soloist, performing in a variety of musical styles by special request, paid bookings for weddings, galas, megachurches, and political events. She has already built an impressive résumé that includes solo performances for Bishop T.D. Jakes, the office of the City of Orlando’s Mayor Demings, four appearances as part of the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, an appearance at The White House, as well as an honor from the NAACP.
Of mainstream classical music orchestras, there is a percentage of only 1.8 percemt African-American musicians on the roster. This factor is what makes Leah’s achievements, so far, such a phenomenon. She is entering and performing in these spaces with no performance anxiety. These are audiences that are not expecting a child of her age to play the instrument with such expertise, and they are not at all expecting a child who looks like her. Leah is gifted, authentic, and unquestionably black, serving as a bold statement of our excellence in music wherever she performs.
In recent years, due to budget restrictions, Music Theory has been removed from schools across the country. Most children in underserved communities with a natural interest in music do not have access to basic instruction or a nearby program where they can study a musical instrument. Several foundations are now stepping forth with generous donations to return music instruction to select schools. There is a void of organizations that support young individual performing artists.
Leah’s budding career has been made possible due to private donations and the support of her parents, Lennox and Paula Flynn, who’ve continued to make extreme personal sacrifices to cultivate her musical gift, regardless of any financial strain. The Flynns have vetted out every program and resource that could potentially foster her growth and continue to vet out the best opportunities. They have also launched the Heart for Strings Foundation, a 501(c)(3) in her honor, to be a source of information and resources in support of other young musicians in underserved communities.
Presently, even with blind auditions, there are no mainstream concert violinists of color. Jazz icon Nina Simone, who went on to inspire Alicia Keys, once admitted to having been denied access to a career in classical music as a concert pianist.
Leah’s family is glad organizations are finally stepping forward to expand the pool of qualified musicians of color and help change the landscape within the community of classical musicians. Her parents remain undeterred, as their 11-year-old is determined and has a clearly defined goal of performing on concert stages around the world. Through the Heart For Strings Foundation, the Flynns are also working to raise awareness, and Leah, herself, serves as an advocate, every time she places her violin to her chin. In due time, things will change, because it is about time for diversity and inclusion in classical music.