She attended a Houston performing arts high school with Beyonce; has lived in Ireland, England, and Spain; co-founded an international music festival; obtained a doctorate in Musical Arts; and now calls Memphis home. Here in the Bluff City she stays busy, too. Flutist Sabrina Hu performs with a trio, as well as IRIS Orchestra, PRIZM Ensemble, and the Memphis Symphony Orchestra.
Along with being faculty at Rhodes College, Hu has been a Memphis Music Initiative Music Engagement Teaching Fellow since the organization began its pilot class of 10 fellows in the spring of 2015.
Through MMI, professional musicians from various genres are paired with schools where the fellows serve as teachers and mentors to students.
MMI Director of In-School Programs and PRIZM Founder and President Lecolion Washington said that Hu’s energy and enthusiasm proved to be invaluable to the program, which was then just beginning to forge an identity.
“She’s committed to the youth and the overall mission of MMI,” he said.
Hu has worked in White Station middle and high schools, as well as Kate Bond Middle School. She is also a teaching artist for PRIZM at De La Salle Elementary, a Jubilee Catholic school in the Binghampton community.
She and her husband have lived in Memphis for three years. She initially found out about the MMI fellowship from Washington and later went through the interview process.
“I learn so much every day from my students,” Hu said.
Hu said that she stays in contact with her students and helps out the high school-aged ones with getting ready and applying for college. Some of her former students will even come back and play for her over the summer.
Music has been a part of Hu’s life for the majority of it. She took piano lessons around age five or six and discovered the flute while in middle school.
After graduating from Mannes College of Music in New York she studied and worked in Europe, including two years in Spain, before enrolling in Michigan State University for her doctorate degree.
She co-founded the Walled City Music Festival in Derry, North Ireland while living in Ireland after receiving her doctorate.
“It was really to start a festival in a city that doesn’t have that much, and to bring really high quality arts in hopes to not just help the youth, but to bring more culture, things to do, things to see,” she said.
The festival happens every summer; the next festival will be in June.
Hu said she has worked to bring interesting international artists from diverse backgrounds to perform at the event.
One of the projects that Hu is working on now will bring Memphis students she has worked with through MMI to the chamber festival. She has served as the Artistic Director of the festival for the past nine years.
“For me (being abroad) was one of the things that really changed my perspective of everything, of myself, of the world,” she said. “Because once you can see beyond what your life is here, the way it is here – especially as a high school student – then you realize that you have so much that you can do, and so much that you can learn.”
In addition to the cultural aspects of being abroad, Hu wants the students to work closely alongside her to learn what it’s like to manage an organization from top to bottom and the logistics of planning a music festival or tour: Ticket sales, booking artists, lining up taxis, pickups, and hotels, and more.
“When you see festivals, I don’t know if people realize the tightness of the schedule that has to be prepared.”
Support for this story was provided in part by the Memphis Music Initiative; it is part of a series highlighting the impact and importance of music on the community in neighborhoods across Memphis.