They say life is what happens when you're busy making other plans.
In my life, the saying has proven to be true. In 2012, I was an exhausted double-major in college, struggling to balance my music school schedule with a pre-veterinary biology course load. Add in part-time jobs waitressing and playing local orchestra gigs, and you have one frazzled, sleep-deprived college student. All I wanted was to graduate and get accepted to vet school so that my "real life" could begin.
Around this time I saw flyers around the music building advertising openings for musicians on cruise ships. As a small-town girl I’d always dreamed of one day seeing the world, and I was captivated by the idea of sailing around the world playing music. When I graduated, I decided to take a gap year before veterinary school to pursue a contract working on a cruise ship. That decision ended up changing the course of my life.
I’ve always loved music — beginning when I was just a baby. My mom always had classical music playing on the radio around the house, and I was enthralled by it. The violin, in particular, captivated me, and one day when I was two years old I asked my mother, “When can I learn to play the violin?”
The answer came two years later. A local Suzuki string program was accepting 4-year-olds into their group lesson program, so my mom enrolled both me and my 7-year-old sister Allison. Even at four, I loved it. I’d watch famous musicians on TV and jam along with them on my little violin, dreaming of one day being just like them.
I grew up in Illinois in a sleepy Midwest town called Dunlap, population 1200, right on the outskirts of the bigger city of Peoria. That meant I had the best of both worlds — we had easy access to the perks of a larger city, but my sister and I got to grow up in the countryside, playing in the woods and building tree houses and riding bikes. Throughout my childhood, music wasn’t anything serious to me — it was just something I did on the side because I enjoyed it, and the rest of the time I was busy with a variety of my other favorite activities: horseback riding, writing stories for fun, even running a small backyard pet-sitting business. I was animal-crazy and would often say I was going to be a veterinarian when I grew up.
As I got older I got more involved with the violin. When I was nine, I joined the Central Illinois Youth Symphony, adding weekly orchestra rehearsals to my schedule. I loved the feeling I got when we performed a symphony on a big stage in front of an audience. It was thrilling and exhilarating, and the emotions I felt when performing were unlike anything I’d ever felt before. Throughout high school I started participating in competitions around the state of Illinois, winning some and losing others. I enjoyed competing, but I also found it stressful, and battled nerves onstage. I wished I could perform for people without the high stakes of competition in the classical music world.
By the time I graduated high school, I knew I wanted to pursue music as a career. I auditioned and was accepted into a handful of prestigious music schools in New York, Cleveland, and the Midwest. In the end, I chose to stay closer to home, enrolling at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University. I loved IU, but over the next few years I started to regret my decision to major in music. I still was passionate about the violin, but the cut-throat classical music world wasn’t a fulfilling environment for me. Thinking back to my childhood aspirations, I enrolled in a double-degree program, adding biology as a second major, and pursued a full pre-veterinary courseload in addition to my music requirements.
Fast-forward to my gap year in 2013. Working on cruise ships during that year opened up my mind to a whole new world out there. I fell in love with travel, racking up over 25 countries visited in 10 months. I saw Rome and Barcelona and London, places I’d only dreamed of one day visiting, and I met amazing people from all over the world. I loved every moment of it.
In spring of 2014 an agent who heard me playing in a lounge on the ship approached me and suggested that I should put together my own show to become a headliner on ships. That meant I’d get to play whatever music I wanted, as a soloist, providing main-stage entertainment on cruise lines around the world. It seemed too good to be true, and I knew nothing was guaranteed, but I went for it. After several months' work, I finished designing my violin show (a musical showcase of my favorite hits from Vivaldi to Pirates of the Caribbean) and successfully pitched it to a major talent agency. Now I sail around the world performing full-time. It’s truly a dream-come-true, and I feel so lucky and blessed to be living out a dream that started when I was just a little girl.
Music is vast and changing and full of endless possibilities, and there is still so much more I want to do. I’m interested in many new endeavors, everything from designing unique violin covers of my favorite popular music to hopefully someday composing original music of my own. The possibilities are endless, and after seeing the course of my life changed by music in incredible ways, I’m learning to never say never.
Amy Lee has captivated audiences around the world with her dazzling virtuosity and expressive performances of classical and popular music alike. She made her orchestral solo debut with the Peoria Symphony Orchestra at the age of 17, and the following year she appeared as a featured soloist with the Belleville Philharmonic. She has won a variety of awards and competitions, and earned a scholarship to study violin performance with Mark Kaplan at the prestigious Jacobs School of Music in Bloomington, Indiana. In 2013, she earned her bachelor's degree in music performance from Indiana University.
Equally at home with classical and crossover repertoire, Amy has performed widely as a soloist, chamber musician, and orchestral member. She was a section violinist for three seasons with the Terre Haute Symphony, Heartland Festival Orchestra, and Carmel Symphony Orchestra, and has played for such musical productions as “West Side Story,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” and the opera “La Boheme.” More recently, she has worked on cruise ships as a headlining act. She has garnered rave reviews from passengers for her soulful playing and compelling performances, and has appeared on stages in over 25 countries. Amy performs on a very special German instrument made in the late 1600's.