13-year-old Sanford violinist hopes to change the face of classical music

Leah Flynn began playing violin at age 5

Young violinist hopes to change the face of classical music
Young violinist hopes to change the face of classical music

SANFORD, Fla. – Leah Flynn has a gift.  When you hear her play the violin, you understand she isn’t like most children her age.

She also has a dream.

“I would love to play at Carnegie Hall one day,” Flynn said.

The young violinist if off to a pretty good start.

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“I practice every day for two to three hours with my dad,” she said.

Her violin music fills the air of their Central Florida home.

Flynn was only 3 when she started playing the piano and it was her dad who encouraged her to take up the violin when she was 5.

Flynn said when she held her first violin, it was transformative.

“It was a feeling that I had,” she said.  “I just felt like this is what I was supposed to do. It made me almost whole inside, it made me happy and joyful and there is no other feeling like that, which is why I play the violin and I plan to always play it.”

News 6 first met and interviewed the young prodigy in 2014, not long after she started playing the violin.

She was captivating even then and we’ve seen her grow up a lot during these past seven years.

Now 13 years old, Flynn plays with the precision and the passion of someone well beyond her years. She doesn’t just play the violin, she brings it to life.

”When I am playing it’s like almost like a feeling like I just feel happy or sad or sometimes even angry... like that emotion comes with the piece and while I am playing. So when you see me smiling I am genuinely feeling the music and feeling happy, which is really a blessing,” she said.

Her hope is to one day become a concert violinist and tour with major symphonies across the globe even though she knows it won’t be easy.

“There have been many African American people who have tried to make it in the classical music industry and it hasn’t happened,” she said. “In major orchestras there is only less than 2% of African Americans in major orchestras all around the world including the United States. I think that is quite disappointing and discouraging.”

At an age when role models are so important, Flynn said she hasn’t found anyone who looks like her to emulate.

Now she wants to be the face other children like her can look to for inspiration. It’s heavy lift for someone so young but she is up for the challenge.

“There have been times when I don’t want to do it and I have to be encouraged to do it but I know that I have to be it to inspire other African American boys and girls that they can do it. So just believe in yourself and you’ll be able to do it,” she said.

With her kind of talent most people would be content to merely maintain it but for Flynn this is just a prelude.

“I am determined to make it and determined to show people that African Americans can play this instrument and can play any classical musical instrument at a high level,” she said.


About the Author:

Ginger Gadsden joined the News 6 team in June 2014 as an anchor/reporter. She currently co-anchors the 4 p.m. 5:30 p.m. and the 7 p.m. newscasts.