Carnegie Hall: Do you sing in any ensembles?
Tina: While I have always been collaborating with other musicians for various projects, even within my solo work, it’s never been quite as face-to-face or as consistent as it is with Talisman. I joined the Stanford a capella group this year, and it’s really been a privilege and a joy to sing with such amazing individuals; I mean this on so many levels. There’s a real sense of family within the group, and the songs we sing—which stem from all kinds of backgrounds, but largely claim South African, African-American, and Native American roots—are just so powerful. When singing songs that carry these kinds of scars and such a heavy sense of history, it’s impossible not to become closer to people as you confront the many, shared facets that there are to the human experience.
Carnegie Hall: What are three things you love about music?
Tina: (1) the joy in finding or singing a song that really strikes you, (2) the universality of a musical experience, and (3) how great music tends to bring people together.
Carnegie Hall: What is the best musical advice anyone has ever given you?
Tina: In the group I sing with, Talisman, we often remind ourselves to listen to the group so acutely and sensitively that we should not be able to hear our own voice. That kind of deep, devoted attention has often gotten lost in this day and age, what with the incessant barrage of distractions, advertisements, media clips, and Internet fractions. People barely sit at the dinner table without thumbing through texts. I think the ability to listen well is important not only in music, but translates to many of the other realms where our generation currently faces its biggest problems.
Carnegie Hall: Who is your biggest inspiration and why?
Tina: Right now, I’m a bit in love with Alexander McQueen, though it’s difficult to articulate why; I had a pretty knee-jerk attraction to his work at the Met earlier this summer. But he really managed to create new worlds with his work. He didn’t compromise with his vision, and in turn, he brought something scathingly fresh to the fashion scene. However, I am most consistently inspired by my peers and whatever they happen to send my way. If they’re super inspired by something, it’s hard for that to not be contagious.
Carnegie Hall: Can you tell us about the most fun you ever had at a musical event?
Tina: Even though, we try to save our fun for outside of rehearsal (we even have a saying: “Talisman happens outside of rehearsal”), I have to admit that the rehearsals where we don’t take ourselves seriously and just go all out in our music are amazing. And the few gigs where we’ve performed at middle schools are the best! When we have fun, and kids sense that, it’s like the whole room lights up. Plus, they ask the best questions. At one of them, they even got one of our members to start free-style rapping.
Carnegie Hall: What are the three best things about your school?
Tina: (1) It never ceases to amaze me how friendly everyone is! Sure, you get a sour face or a sharp comment every once in a while, but it’s rare and shows that we’re not all robots. Otherwise it’s wonderful how warm everyone is to each other—maybe it’s the weather. (2) Many of the kids I grew up with were consumed with being perceived as cool. It was as though they were in love with not caring. Then I got to campus, and nearly everyone I met seemed to take a sincere interest in what they did, and they weren’t embarrassed to show it. It may sound corny, but I think, because of this, people tend to care more about each other and what everyone around them is doing. It’s really a special place in this way.
(3) There are always an unimaginable number of things going on at once. While this can be brilliant, because it means that there are always so many opportunities right around the corner, on the days that it catches you off guard, it can also be immensely overwhelming and exhausting. However, on those days, you can always hole up in one of the many quiet places on campus, rest up, and then re-emerge ready to tackle it all again.
Carnegie Hall: What is the most important thing you have learned this past year?
Tina: After taking the Happiness class on campus, I started keeping a daily list of the three things for which I was grateful that day. I’m horrible with habits, but this one stuck pretty easily. It’s a lovely reminder of how consistently lucky I am to be alive.
Carnegie Hall: Have any advice for other musicians?
Tina: I’m usually the one who is always seeking advice! But a mantra that someone else told me this year was, “Find what you love.” This takes at the very least an open mind, and at its very essence a sense of initiative and the patience to sustain that energy. Also, I’ve found that it’s always good to never get too serious—humility and a sense of humor make it easier to crush any fears that might hold you back.
Carnegie Hall: How did you start playing music?
Tina: Ever since I can remember I’ve been singing and making all kinds of noises, (although, I’m not sure whether or not you could call this music,) but it wasn’t until I quit taking classical piano lessons that I actually started enjoying it, and consequently, completely immersing myself in all aspects of it—playing, writing, recording, and music-hunting.
Carnegie Hall: What are you currently listening to?
Tina: My uncle just gave me a whole slew of older Billie Holiday records, and these past two weeks, I’ve had five versions of “He’s Funny That Way” on rotation. Then there’s been a stew of this strange, hilarious J-reggaeton by Terry the Aki-06, who’s kind of a Japanese 2pac/Biggie, as well as a mix of Mariee Sioux, Joni Mitchell’s Cloud album, Adele’s 21, Cults’ “Abduction”, French-Chilean rap from Ana Tijoux, and this dubstep remix of James Vincent McMorrow, who’s just wonderful. But it changes daily, and chances are I’ll be onto something new or a new oldie by tomorrow.
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