° empty

Bright future: NHS senior likes talking in strings

NATCHEZ — William Ross needs nothing more than the four strings of his violin to communicate with musicians from around the world.

“Some of them might not speak English, but we all play the same music and that’s how we communicate,” Ross said, sitting on his mother’s couch with pages of sheet music scattered around him. “We don’t have to speak — we just play.”

The Natchez High School rising senior attended the Premier Orchestral Institute, a six-day orchestra program for string players, in June.

The trip to Mississippi College in Jackson paired Ross, 16, with musicians from Cuba, Colombia and Ecuador, among others.

Much to Ross’ surprise, the language barrier didn’t stop the musicians from bonding throughout the program.

“It was hard to communicate at first, and I felt weird not knowing how to speak to people, but everyone was very friendly,” Ross said. “They started coming up to me and talking to me.

“I think they weren’t used to seeing a black violin player, so that was a surprise for a lot of people.”

Ross began playing the violin in fifth grade, but the stringed instrument wasn’t his first choice.

“I wanted to play saxophone so I could play the blues, but something called me to the violin,” Ross said. “It was so hard at first learning how to play, but now I love it so much.”

That calling, Ross’ mother said, came from a higher power.

“The Lord gifted him with this talent, and he just needs to keep following the music,” Glenda Ross said. “He’s come a long way.”

But the calling wasn’t always so crystal clear for Ross, who said he took a brief two-year break from the instrument.

“I was worried that I wouldn’t be making money off playing, so I stopped for about two years,” Ross said. “My mom and my teacher encouraged me to pursue it again because it really is my calling.”

After his two-year hiatus, Ross was named first chair of the Natchez High School orchestra and continues to be a role model for his classmates, orchestra director Shawn Smith said.

“I think some students that were a couple of years older than he was intimidated him for a while, but then he came back and realized he was just as good as they were,” Smith said. “He’s just an all-around good kid with a pleasant personality.”

Ross’ trip to the program got him keen on attending Mississippi College to study music after he graduates, but he knows that won’t come without continued hard work and dedication.

“I want to go to college and play music the rest of my life, so I just have to keep practicing to get better,” Ross said. “Practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes better.”