With bright lights flooding the stage, sheet music in place, a violin in one hand and a bow in the other, he prepared to play in one of the most prestigious concert halls in the world.
Now, the memory of this past summer fades away as the violinist spends his occasional fall afternoon in front of the Morgan University Center, producing sweet melodies at his fingertips for all to enjoy.
Elijah-Pharaoh Carter, better known as “violin guy” at APSU, is admired by his peers.
“His laugh is extremely contagious, and he’s the kind of person to do something absolutely ridiculous just to make people around him laugh,” long-time friend Anna Holt said. She said he is also a humble young man with a talent he enjoys sharing with others.
Carter is a freshman from Memphis, Tennessee who came to APSU to study computer science and chase after his passion. His choice of major comes as a shock to some, especially given his talent with the violin. What comes as an even bigger shock is that he has chosen to study in computer science after playing at the prestigious Carnegie Hall in New York City last summer.
Carter is not one to boast about his achievements, no matter the size. While talking about his time in New York, his performance at Carnegie Hall almost seemed to pale in comparison to a story about how he made $50 while playing in Times Square.
During the early hours of the morning before his performance, he wandered out to Times Square and began to play for anyone willing to listen. Although he understands the magnitude of performing at Carnegie Hall, he said he tends to appreciate the small details in life while still making note of the bigger events that take place.
“As a violinist, after a couple of years you get the idea of, maybe I could play in Carnegie Hall,” Carter said. “This is the dream that would never happen, and it actually happened.”
The Bellevue Orchestra, Carter’s home church orchestra, was invited to accompany four-time Grammy-nominated Christian artist Natalie Grant at the 2,804 seat concert hall.
Ever since Carter could remember he had grown up in the church, specifically Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee. When Carter was 10, his parents told him it was time to learn an instrument. He chose the violin: the only instrument he was interested in besides the piano. Private and group lessons landed him in the Bellevue Orchestra ensembles after only two or three years.
Fast forward to this past summer and Carter found himself making $50 in tips at Times Square playing the instrument he had come to love through countless hours of practicing and performing. Carter would go on to perform that evening in the world-renowned Carnegie Hall.
He said he remembers in vivid detail the doors that were located on the sides of the stage that left him awestruck while touring the concert hall when he first arrived.
“Just walking through the doors to the sides of the stage were huge. You look up and it was this 15-20 foot door and it swung open to this amazing expanse of the stage,” Carter said.
It had taken Carter many years and countless hours of practicing and performing to get to this moment.
“He never does anything halfway. Everything he does he puts his best effort into,” Jesse Remington, a childhood friend of Carter, said.
Remington also said “his enthusiasm encourages the people around him to abandon themselves to whatever they do to the best of their abilities…”
All great musicians have someone or something that helped them achieve their dreams and for Carter, that would be his parents. Carter said he is abundantly appreciative for everything his parents have done to raise him to become the man he is today in both life and music.
He said he is incredibly close with both of his parents and loves them dearly.
“I’m a momma’s boy, and I’m proud about it.”
Carter did not leave out his feeling for his father.
“I love my dad. He’s taught me a lot about life,” Carter said. “To be a black man, and have my dad, he did amazing with that.”
Carter said this continued love and support from his parents got him to where he is today, and by 2020, when he walks across the stage, he will be the first person in his family to graduate college.
Despite being heavily involved in playing the violin since he was a child, Carter chose to pursue a career in computers. He said halfway through high school, he began to think for one or two years “[violin] would be it,” but then one day he realized he got bored with playing it.
“I can never stop playing violin because I’ve been playing for almost a decade,” Carter said. “I love it, but it’s not something I want to spend my life doing. I didn’t love it as much as computers.”
Carter said he ultimately made his decision to pursue computer science in college because during middle school, he noticed how high schoolers “did not have anything figured out.”
When discussing his thought process in middle school, Carter said he is not going to let anyone decide what he was going to do in college.
“My parents, they can say what they want me to do, but ultimately it’s going to be my decision. It wasn’t like I was rebelling against my parents. It was because if I didn’t do something that I wanted to do, I wasn’t going to be happy,” Carter said.
When it comes to life in correlation to work, Carter noticed something.
“If you don’t do something you love, it’s always going to be work. But if you do something you love, it isn’t work at all,” Carter said.