Musician traces musical career to Akron’s Miller South
— Playing any instrument professionally can be a challenge, but for Gina Wilson, her love of the cello has taken her on a unique journey. Wilson has played with a number of popular local bands, like A Band Named Ashes, but it’s when she accompanied singer-songwriter Angie Haze during Haze’s uniquely inventive “Bigger Picture” presentation last year at Miller South School for the Visual & Performing Arts that things were brought full circle.
This performance was especially meaningful, because Wilson realized her love of the cello by attending Akron’s Miller South in the ’90s.
“If it hadn’t been for Miller South, I wouldn’t have ever picked up a cello (I might even still be calling it that big violin, ugh),” says Wilson, a successful working musician. “And now the cello is such a huge part of who I am that I can’t even imagine life without it.
Wilson started at the school in 4th grade studying voice and piano, eventually transitioning to cello. “I was more challenged in my regular classes than I had previously been and all of the teachers were so encouraging.”
But even before 4th grade, music was an essential part of her life.
“When I was very young, my parents sang in the church choir — they still do, and now I direct that same choir — and they would take me to their choir practice every Wednesday,” says Wilson. “The organist at the time would always take five minutes before practice when no one else was paying attention to teach me songs on my little play keyboard I would bring with me. Every week she would add a little more and eventually I could play “Oh When the Saints” on the piano.”
Along with local gigs, Wilson’s toured with bands, but making money can prove difficult, especially when traveling out of state with larger ensembles. And being a professional musician is a lot different then some may realize, she admits.
“Playing professionally is fun, but tough – it’s not easy to make a living off of it. I also play professionally for weddings and special events. I enjoy all of it, but it is a lot of work – it’s not something you can do unless you really love playing music, which luckily I do. I will also mention that it can be very rewarding when you know your music — whether at a wedding or at a regular show at a restaurant/bar— has made someone’s day a little better.”
When she’s not playing her cello, Wilson directs a church choir and likes to play her keyboard and sing at the top of her lungs. “I also teach dance and take a few classes a week. I teach tap, ballet, contemporary, jazz and hip-hop, and I take adult jazz and tap myself.”
She recently earned a doctorate’s degree in neuroscience from Kent State University and is hoping to start a new job as a research scientist very soon.
Regardless of where she goes professionally, her musical upbringing will remain with her. “Music is life to me,” says Wilson. “It’s part of everything I do. And I really believe that everyone is reliant on music – even if it’s just listening to it in the car on the way to work. Picture how empty life would be without music.”
“I am convinced everyone appreciates music and adds to the beautiful fabric of our artistic culture in their specific ways. Everyone has a song in their heart, even if they don’t realize it.”
To aspiring musicians, “I guess my advice is simply to practice, practice, practice. If you look at someone and think, ‘Man, they’re good! I wish I could be that good,’ you can be that good! I promise that musician works incredibly hard to fill that hour set or whatever it may be.”