By Cheri Todd Molter
Kia Walker was seven years old when her father taught her to sing Whitney Houston’s powerful version of “Greatest Love of All.”
Everyone who heard Kia knew she had talent.
She knew something, too: She knew she loved music and even at that early age she knew she wanted it to “consume” her life.
In the years since, music has become Walker’s purpose and mission. With her husband, Skip, she owns, runs and teaches at The Blue Violin Music Education Center on Person Street in downtown Fayetteville. She is music director at Sharon Baptist Church in Smithfield. And she performs. On a recent CD, entitled “Troubadour,” Walker sings a collection of hymns and original compositions.
“Music is my life,” Walker said.
A native of Fayetteville, Walker cultivated her vocal talents throughout her youth. She also learned to play the violin and from fifth grade on, was always first chair violin in her school orchestras.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Fayetteville State University and was encouraged by a professor to consider a career in music therapy. The practice uses musical rhythms and melodies to enhance people’s learning capabilities.
But Walker pursued music ministry, spurred by her religious faith and a desire to continue honing her musical abilities and teaching skills. She earned a Master of Divinity degree with a concentration in church music from Campbell University. She then taught music for several years at Northwood Temple Academy’s elementary school in Fayetteville. She also dreamed about opening her own music school but feared risking such a venture.
Then she saw a blue violin.
Kia Walker saw the instrument hanging on the wall at Edwards Music Company and it caught her eye – and her imagination.
She didn’t buy the violin. After all, she hadn’t played the instrument in a while. And she had been battling a shopping addiction. Buying the expensive violin then and there was out of the question.
So, she said with a laugh, “I put it on layaway.”
She mentioned the violin to her husband. He went and bought it for her.
Kia Walker saw the gift as a demonstration of her husband’s belief in her capabilities and of his support of her musical pursuits.
It encouraged her to take up the violin again.
And it pushed her to act on her dream of opening a music school. On May 27, 2010 – her birthday – she signed the lease for the building that would come to house The Blue Violin.
“It was the best birthday present ever,” she said.
Seven years later, The Blue Violin is going strong, teaching students at its location in downtown Fayetteville and via the Internet. Walker said the school started offering online lessons at the request of a military family who had to move to Texas but wanted their child to continue music instruction with Walker. The Blue Violin now offers lessons to anyone anywhere in the country.
Walker has many longtime students, including some whom she began with at Northwood Temple Academy years ago.
The Blue Violin offers vocal and instrumental training in both traditional and contemporary musical styles for students of all ages. All have opportunities to perform live.
“I want my students’ musical experiences to be limitless,” she said.
Walker herself can play a variety of instruments, including violin, piano, guitar and flute. But she said her favorite instrument is the human voice. She considers each person’s voice to be unique, important and beautiful and tells students to treat their own voices like instruments.
“When you’re singing, you’re ‘playing’ you,” she said. “When I’m singing, I’m ‘playing’ me.”
At the same time, different voices have different strengths and abilities and Walker helps singers identify and adapt to different situations. In her role as music director at Sharon Baptist Church, Walker sometimes works with choir members to rewrite pieces of music to fit their particular voices.
“There’s joy in creating a harmony,” she said. “It’s a beautiful thing.”
Music fills Walker’s waking hours – and sometimes her sleep. She said she dreams about music. Her best teaching ideas often come at night and she’ll wake with an inspiration for helping her students.
Walker said she worries about the future of music in society as a whole.
“I believe music is an art form that is going away and I don’t like that,” she said.
Ideally, she said, it would be “second nature” for people to play music. But many people are losing music abilities, she said.
The demands of the art may play a role. Walker expects her students to practice daily. A sign on The Blue Violin’s door reminds them of the commitment required to be successful: “What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.”
Walker believes music enriches both individuals and their communities, making gatherings more special and more inclusive. She said she is committed to contributing to Fayetteville’s local music scene.
“Everything’s made better with music,” she said.
That includes running her business. Walker said the past seven years with The Blue Violin have included peaks and valleys but the difficult moments have been outweighed by the pleasure she gets from sharing her love of music.
She said her faith and her husband’s support have been essential to her success.
She also had to deal with her toughest critic: herself.
“I’ve had to learn how to be okay with me,” she said. “No matter what.”