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Little drummer girl Carmen Murray

"We’ve always had African drums around the house.”

Murray: “I don’t think music has impaired me, it might even help with the social thing. My parents make sure I still have time to be 14.” - Image by Robert Sanchez
Murray: “I don’t think music has impaired me, it might even help with the social thing. My parents make sure I still have time to be 14.”

“I got the recommendation from [hand-drum pro] Monette Marino,” confides 14-year-old percussionist Carmen Murray. “The symphony asked her for a young player and I got the call one day before the audition. I just played through the piece and then I was asked to solo — and then they offered me the part! So now I’m playing ‘Little Drummer Boy’ with the symphony. I mean, that’s kind of a big deal, you know? I’ve never really done anything like that with a professional orchestra.”

Murray just completed a run of performances playing the djembe, a small West African drum, at Symphony Hall with the Tony-award-winning Broadway veteran Brian Stokes Mitchell. She also plays symphonic percussion with the New Youth Orchestra and trap drums with the International Academy of Jazz. Drums, it seems, are an inherent component of the Murray homestead.

“I’m pretty familiar with [djembe],” she related. “I’ve taken hand-drum lessons before and my mom played them for a while. We’ve always had African drums around the house.”

Carmen’s been playing for five years and didn’t seem fazed by the prospect of facing such a large audience. “I’ve been performing since I was too young to be nervous about it, so I don’t think it will hit me until I’m about to get onstage — especially because I’ll be soloing — doing that on an African drum is a little different than what I’ve been doing. But I think I’ll be okay.”

Keeping up with studies in classical music, jazz, and regular schoolwork seems daunting to an outsider. Is there any time left to be a kid?

“I try,” she says with an easy laugh. “There’s always going to be things I can’t do because I have to practice, but there’s also a social aspect to playing music with other kids, too. I don’t think music has impaired me...it might even help with the social thing. My parents make sure I still have time to be 14.”

What does she do for fun outside of music? “I love learning languages. I’ve been speaking German since I was in kindergarten, and I’m learning Mandarin in school and Korean with my best friend, plus I take a hip-hop dance class once a week.”

Murray believes in keeping her options open. “I’m definitely playing it by ear. I don’t know what I’m going to be doing in the future — I’m working toward getting good grades so I can do whatever I want. If I want to be an engineer I can do that, or if I want to pursue the drums I can do that, too.”

Place

Panama 66

1450 Plaza de Panama, San Diego

Carmen Murray will be the drummer in the Gilbert Castellanos Quartet for the jam session at Panama 66 in Balboa Park on Wednesday, January 4.

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Two poems by Julia Wehner

A reminder of how richly good it is to feel, and to live
Murray: “I don’t think music has impaired me, it might even help with the social thing. My parents make sure I still have time to be 14.” - Image by Robert Sanchez
Murray: “I don’t think music has impaired me, it might even help with the social thing. My parents make sure I still have time to be 14.”

“I got the recommendation from [hand-drum pro] Monette Marino,” confides 14-year-old percussionist Carmen Murray. “The symphony asked her for a young player and I got the call one day before the audition. I just played through the piece and then I was asked to solo — and then they offered me the part! So now I’m playing ‘Little Drummer Boy’ with the symphony. I mean, that’s kind of a big deal, you know? I’ve never really done anything like that with a professional orchestra.”

Murray just completed a run of performances playing the djembe, a small West African drum, at Symphony Hall with the Tony-award-winning Broadway veteran Brian Stokes Mitchell. She also plays symphonic percussion with the New Youth Orchestra and trap drums with the International Academy of Jazz. Drums, it seems, are an inherent component of the Murray homestead.

“I’m pretty familiar with [djembe],” she related. “I’ve taken hand-drum lessons before and my mom played them for a while. We’ve always had African drums around the house.”

Carmen’s been playing for five years and didn’t seem fazed by the prospect of facing such a large audience. “I’ve been performing since I was too young to be nervous about it, so I don’t think it will hit me until I’m about to get onstage — especially because I’ll be soloing — doing that on an African drum is a little different than what I’ve been doing. But I think I’ll be okay.”

Keeping up with studies in classical music, jazz, and regular schoolwork seems daunting to an outsider. Is there any time left to be a kid?

“I try,” she says with an easy laugh. “There’s always going to be things I can’t do because I have to practice, but there’s also a social aspect to playing music with other kids, too. I don’t think music has impaired me...it might even help with the social thing. My parents make sure I still have time to be 14.”

What does she do for fun outside of music? “I love learning languages. I’ve been speaking German since I was in kindergarten, and I’m learning Mandarin in school and Korean with my best friend, plus I take a hip-hop dance class once a week.”

Murray believes in keeping her options open. “I’m definitely playing it by ear. I don’t know what I’m going to be doing in the future — I’m working toward getting good grades so I can do whatever I want. If I want to be an engineer I can do that, or if I want to pursue the drums I can do that, too.”

Place

Panama 66

1450 Plaza de Panama, San Diego

Carmen Murray will be the drummer in the Gilbert Castellanos Quartet for the jam session at Panama 66 in Balboa Park on Wednesday, January 4.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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