Erica Hudson has always loved both science and music and wanted to pursue both as a career. However, both fields require a lot of time and are quite demanding, so she had to choose one or the other.
Today, Hudson is a first violinist at the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, performing for more than 110,000 people per year.
For much of her life, Hudson had two realities in mind – one where she followed the practical and so-called “safe route” of studying biology and working in the sciences and another where she followed both her dreams and her heart by pursuing music as a full-time career.
“I had to choose one and ultimately I just felt like music was what I wanted to do,” she said.
Hudson has been playing violin since she was three years old. However, like most children, she wasn’t very interested at first. This changed as she grew into her teen years and she soon realized that music was her passion.
Like music, Hudson has been interested in biology since she was a child, so she looked for a university that would allow her to double major. She ended up attending Carnegie Mellon in Pennsylvania.
Hudson said she realized by the end of her first semester in university, that studying biology wasn’t as easy as high school science. This is when she knew she had to choose between two things she deeply enjoyed. Since she wasn’t able to keep up with the high demand of both, she chose music.
“I think, ultimately, it was just knowing this is not something that I could ever let go of and I think I also owed it to myself to really pursue it wholeheartedly.”
Hudson had a difficult time choosing between what is seen as practical and impractical career paths. She worried that music was too risky.
“I think I definitely hesitated — maybe more just from fear — even though I knew that it was something that I really wanted to do.”
According to a Phantom Brass article, there were only 57 full-time jobs in 2017 for orchestra players in the United States and they only have a few vacancies per year. Of those 57, only eight pay over $25,000 per year. With 8,133 performance degrees awarded throughout the United States in 2015, the odds of finding a position are low.
“I think I was scared or I doubted that I had what it took to make it,” said Hudson, who joined the Calgary Philharmonic in January 2017 after completing her fellowship program at the Dallas Symphony.
Sarah Kwon, one of Hudson’s childhood friends, said that Hudson had always been a high achiever in school. “It didn’t come as a complete surprise that she did do it. But at the same time we just knew that no matter what she did she would just be so good at it,” said Kwon.
Hudson’s parents supported her through her journey of becoming a violinist and her mother even told her that it would be alright if she ever wanted to quit playing — which she never did.
“My mom was definitely kind of the force behind trying to keep me going and practicing and she would come with me to all my lessons and take notes and practice with me,” Hudson said.
Jessie Hudson, Hudson’s younger sister, said of her parents: “Their motto is just to keep all of us happy and help us find what we want to do with our lives and [to] follow our passions and the thing that really motivates us.”
In her childhood, Hudson took part in competitions — as most young virtuosos do. However, she said that she didn’t enjoy competing because she preferred the spontaneity of actual performances. Today, she admits that those competitions ended up preparing her for her job in the present.
“The thing with performances is that you just have one shot at it and whatever happens in that moment is what it is,” she said.
“It doesn't matter how much you practiced or how you play it when you're not on the stage, what you present in that moment is what you know you're going to give.”
Hudson and the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra recently performed the soundtrack of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets at the Arts Commons on Feb. 28 and Mar. 1.
- By Sara Aldred