By Bob Marovich
A native of Aberdeen, NC, currently residing in Atlanta, GA,
Brooke “Viosocalist” Alford is billed as an Artist of the Violin. She plays in various styles including, but not limited to contemporary jazz, gospel, pop and R&B. She has opened for artists such as Najee, Will Downing, Paul Taylor, Eric Darius and Rick Braun and shared the stage with James Ingram and Kenneth Edmonds, aka “Babyface.” Brooke has also been featured on the BRAVO TV series Housewives of Atlanta and on Trinity Broadcasting Newtwork’s (TBN) Praise the Lord program with gospel artist Rodney Dean Boyden, and has performed at the 2011 Colorado Smooth Jazz and R&B Lover’s Festival in Denver, CO. and
Her aim is to expose her audiences to her music in a new light, aside from the classical orchestral setting and image, and show that the violin truly has no limits with respect to genre.
You describe yourself as a “Viosocalist.” What does that mean?
“Viosocalist” was formulated when I was recording my first CD, Expressions. My producer said he felt my violin was singing, that it was soulful, and encouraged me to pick a title that was as unique as my approach. Viosocalist describes my playing. It’s my brand. My whole approach to my art is a fresh experience on the violin, and I wanted a fresh title to associate with a fresh experience.
When were you introduced to the instrument?
I’ve been playing the violin almost twenty years now. Initially I wanted to play bass. My mom said, “Are you going to carry that upright bass to school every day?” And I was like, “No, you’re going to take me!” She was like, “Whaaat?!” Then I wanted to play the oboe, but my older sister wanted to play the clarinet, and to me, the oboe was too close to clarinet. I wanted to do something different. One day I was watching TV and saw young female violin players with an orchestra. I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. That’s what I wanted to do.
Who were some of your influences?
I listened to whatever my mom and dad listened to. Since my mom is a music professional, she exposed us to a lot of classical music, but also a lot of R&B and gospel. My father was into soul music. The first person I listened to on the violin was Regina Carter.
‘Reason to Live,’ Brooke Alford, from The Viosocalist album
Did you ever consider becoming a classical musician?
I have always enjoyed playing classical music, but my music teachers would say to me, “Just play what’s already there!” I had a hard time playing precisely what was on the score because I wanted to add my own personality to the music, like a solo artist does. So I knew I was going to be a solo artist in either classical or contemporary, because I just couldn’t play the robot! I couldn’t be a machine in an orchestra.
Did you study music in college?
I went to Florida State University and studied at the College of Music with Beth Newdome, who was my violin professor throughout my four years of college. She really encouraged me. She played a very large part in my life and in my career. In fact, the violin I play on used to be her violin. She passed away of cancer in 2010 and I dedicated “Twenty Two” on my new CD to her.
Tell us about your violin.
I have two of them: one is a boy and one is a girl, because they do have personalities and get moody from time to time! My acoustic violin, the one that used to belong to Ms. Newdome, her name is Anaiyah. I love playing acoustic because it is real, it is natural. You feel the vibrations. But I can add a lot to my electric violin, too, which looks different and funky and people enjoy seeing that. Finny is his name!
There aren’t a whole lot of female violin players outside the classical realm, you know.
I’d say there’s a handful, about five I can think of off the top of my head, in classical and jazz/contemporary. It’s not as common as females playing saxophone or keyboards, but they are out there. It’s a bold direction to go into, and it takes a special type of person to do that. It’s tough being in a male-dominated industry, but it’s a chance to convince people to be open to it.
Brooke Alford, ‘Love No Limit,’ from her 2007 debut, Expressions
Brooke Alford with the Still Waters Youth Sinfo-nia of Atlanta
Tell us about your new recording.
The Viosocalist is my second recording. It marks my development as an artist. My first CD, Expressions (2007), was a live studio recording, incorporating styles from classical to gospel to R&B and jazz all in one project. I’ve accumulated more experience since then and wanted this CD to have a bigger production dynamic. Among the producers on The Viosocalist are Dem Dudes Productions from New York City, Norman Bradley and Mike Westberg out of New Jersey, and Steve Oliver out of L.A.
You attend an AME Church. Did you grow up AME?
I did. My family is Baptist, but when we moved to Georgia from North Carolina, we joined Turner Chapel AME Church. I’m used to all denominations, because I have played for many types of churches.
What will a gospel music enthusiast get from your project?
There’s inspiration behind every track on the CD. Music can be a blessing when it’s presented in a way that’s positive. Whether you enjoy smooth jazz or straight gospel, you will appreciate the music and the messages on the CD.
You enjoy exercising. Do you find keeping fit helps you in your performance?
I don’t know who I’d be without fitness. I’ve been an athlete all my life. I started dancing at three, and my father and mother were athletic as well. Being healthy and active was instilled in me at an early age. When I got into competitive running in high school, I never looked back. I still run and compete to this day. My career is demanding, and physically demanding concerts take a toll on you. To be physically fit helps me make it through the long days, late nights, and early mornings. I encourage young musicians to look at health and fitness as a lifestyle, not just something to do, so you can do what you want to do on stage and not be worn out afterwards.
For more information on Brooke “Viosocalist” Alford, visit www.brookealfordviolin.com
Bob Marovich is a gospel music historian, radio announcer and author. His “Gospel Memories” radio program of vintage black gospel music and artist interviews airs live first Sundays from 3 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. on Chicago’s WLUW 88.7 FM, and streams live at the station’s website. Snippets of recent broadcasts can be heard online at the Gospel Memories Radio Show. Bob is also founder and editor of The Black Gospel Blog.