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Conversations with Christina Brier and Linda Estep

Today we’d like to introduce you to Christina Brier and Linda Estep. Them and their team share their story with us below:

In spring 2018, two Wilmington women discussed their shared dream of bringing all different types of people together to create music and change lives. Harpist Christina Brier and violinist Linda Estep have been playing music together since 1994 when they met in kindergarten and both began their music education.

They grew up going to the same schools, playing violin in the same studios and orchestras, and sharing life experiences as part of an insular church community in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Throughout their middle and high school years, they found a connection with the community around them through their weekly participation in the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra program.

Music opened pathways for Christina and Linda including undergraduate and graduate school, travel and performance around the world, and lifelong friendships with musicians and colleagues. Music changed their lives. As Christina and Linda matured into adulthood, their music studies provided them with emotional tools, mental resilience, and connection with their community.

Their desire now is to share the gift of music with their own community—the Cape Fear Region of North Carolina. In September 2018, Linda and Christina launched the Brooklyn Arts Music Academy (BAMA).

They initially taught lessons out of their home in the Brooklyn Arts District on Wilmington’s Northside, but are now located in the heart of downtown on 5th and Chestnut Ave. Brooklyn Arts Music Academy currently reaches over 100 students of all ages with individual music lessons.

In the Music Is Life! Program, the Academy partners with Head Start preschools in New Hanover County and offers free music classes to over 350 preschool children.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle-free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
Since opening, we’ve faced a few struggles along the way. BAMA opened in September 2018 which was the same month when Hurricane Florence hit the city of Wilmington. We were forced to close for nearly a month, and we had difficulty launching. We also had to pause instruction for hurricane Dorian.

When we reached March 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic shut down began. As a school, we dealt with Covid-19 by teaching online. All of our performances were canceled in 2020 preventing us from growing and providing valuable experiences for our students. Through these challenges, we’ve realized that the arts provide great solace and an outlet for people facing hardships. Throughout all of these natural disasters and difficulties, the school continued to grow, and people continued to love making music.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
Linda Estep—Artistic Director, violin teacher, and Music Is Life! teacher at BAMA— is the newly-appointed conductor of the Wilmington Symphony Youth Orchestra. As a violinist, she performs regularly with the Wilmington Symphony and Opera Wilmington Orchestra and has served as concertmaster of the Maranatha Symphony.

She performed as a section violinist with Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra and Long Bay Symphony. As a chamber musician, Linda performs with the Brierwood Ensemble and the UNCW Faculty String Quartet. While Linda has traveled the world sharing her love of performing and teaching music, she currently resides in Wilmington, North Carolina.

At Brooklyn Arts Music Academy, she develops curriculum and programming to enhance the development of young preschool children through Music Is Life! and teaches a full private violin studio. Linda received her BA in String Pedagogy from Maranatha University.

Christina Brier—Executive Director, harp teacher, and Music Is Life! teacher at BAMA—is principal harpist of the Wilmington Symphony, Carolina Philharmonic, and Opera Wilmington Orchestra. She performs as a guest or second harpist with the North Carolina Symphony. A co-founder of the Brierwood Ensemble, Christina presents chamber music in a variety of settings.

She performs with Manhattan harpist Kathryn Sloat as a member of the international prize-winning harp duo Lilac 94. In September 2018, Lilac 94 placed third in the International Harp Competition in Saluzzo, Italy. Lilac 94 performed “Freude” from Karl Stockhausen’s twenty-one-hour chamber work Klang with Analog Arts in Philadelphia in 2018 and at Montreal’s New Music Festival in 2019.

In 2014, Christina spent 6 months touring India performing as a solo harpist and in a duo with Bulgarian flutist Petya Vasileva. Christina teaches harp at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and is president of the Coastal Carolina Chapter of the American Harp Society.

Christina received her master’s degree in harp performance from the Eastman School of Music where she studied with Kathleen Bride.

What do you like best about our city? What do you like least?
Wilmington, NC is a gorgeous place to live!

As Northern transplants, we have loved the beach town vibe of this city. The arts community in Wilmington is supportive and vibrant. As a community music school located in the heart of downtown, Wilmington; we love being part of the historic downtown community.

The most difficult part of living in a Coastal town has been the higher prevalence of natural disasters such as hurricanes.

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