Fayola Edwards-Ojeba, Violin
When there’s a waiting list of 14 kids who want to play saxophone at your school, what do you do? You play violin of course!
Yes, there’s more to it than that. Fayola was born in London, where her Jamaican parents had met. “There was always music in our family,” Fayola says. “My mom played piano and sang, and my dad was in a rock band, playing drums and bass guitar. We moved to Long Island when I was four and I started playing piano when I was five.” There was no choice about that. “All three of us kids had to play piano first. You could choose your second instrument though.”
Early on, Fayola’s parents took all the kids to orchestra concerts. She loved it when the orchestra tuned up, especially the strings. “I thought it was a song and I wanted them to play it every time. And they did!” When it came time to choose her second instrument, saxophone occurred to her. She wasn’t too dismayed when instead she the school gave her a violin. Because then she could play that cool song.
The family played music together (sister on cello and brother on double bass) and Fayola often invited friends from school orchestra over to play. She joined the Long Island Gemini Youth Orchestra in 6th grade and the New York Youth Symphony Orchestra while in high school. “The conductor was 6’5” and totally intimidating. If you looked like you were struggling, he made you stand up and play it solo! But we got to play at Carnegie Hall and that was great.” Fayola even toyed with music versus the sciences as a career. “I realized I was often sitting in the seconds and actually my grades were more solid.” Well, just a tad more solid: She went to Harvard University as a chemistry and pre-med major. Meanwhile playing with the university’s chamber orchestra.
From there, Fayola went to Yale University for medical school—when she stopped playing. “It was a little too much to do both.” Fayola moved to San Francisco for her Residency at UCSF and then worked at UCSF Women’s Clinic as a Clinical Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine, seeing patients and taking up the violin again! She soon joined the SF Civic Symphony Orchestra. She’s now heading her own company, RechargedMD, focused on doctors who have burnout. And when she moved to Oakland, she did an internet search and found Prometheus. “We have a great repertoire; I like that Eric finds pieces I’m not familiar with to play. It’s a lot of fun to play again and learn about new music.”
Fayola now has two (almost three) kids of her own. “They’re really into music. My oldest, three-and-a-half year old Oziyere, has her own little violin so we play together. She nags me to practice and she has lots of opinions about the music I play. She likes Dvorak!” Prometheus: Next Generation!
(And about that brother, who often comes to our concerts—we hear he’s now playing cello. We need cellos. Just saying…)
~ Joyce Vollmer