“Such a lovely, happy place”

When her son, James, displayed an uncanny talent for playing violin at just five years old, Virginia Sharene Solomon wanted to do everything possible to help him follow his passion, although she knew music lessons would be expensive.
Luckily, James’s school music teacher recommended that he apply for financial aid at NMS. Virginia decided it was a can’t-miss opportunity and he began taking lessons, eventually becoming one of the first participants in our City Initiative program, which (thanks to our loyal donors) provides tuition-free lesson, ensemble and leadership opportunities for students who would not otherwise be able to afford them. Since then, James and his mom have never looked back!
Now 14, James has been studying violin with instructor Phoebe Barron for all those years. Along the way, he’s participated in a number
of NMS groups, including the Baroque Ensemble, Junior Chamber Ensemble, Advanced Baroque Ensemble, Trio Sonata, Summer Baroque and Baroque and Beyond, as well as the Greater New Haven Concert Orchestra.
“He adores playing violin and just blows me away,” said Virginia of her son’s gift. “I get teary-eyed at his lesson.”

And this year the Solomons will be adding a new musician to the NMS family: James’s younger sister, Jazz, has recently been accepted to the City Initiative program and will be studying cello with Carl Shugart.
Virginia said her family has been so touched by NMS’s commitment to serve all students, no matter what their financial means, that they have been inspired to help out in return. So when Dance Department Chair Tracey Albert asked the NMS community for help setting up the recital hall for dance programs, Virginia and her three children jumped at the chance to volunteer as a way to give back. They plan to keep helping out whenever they can.
Virginia says that she and her husband – both musicians themselves – got laid off when their children were very young. They’ve been playing catch-up ever since, with Virginia recently accepting a new job as an assistant teacher. Through tough financial times, James’s participation in City Initiative has been such a gift, she says.
“I can’t tell you what a blessing NMS has been to our family,” she says. “Just being in that school is a joy. It’s such a lovely, happy place and I could spend all day there.”