Humble violinist strings talent into tunes as she tries to make it big

January 8, 2019

Sonya Nguyen put her two drinks down and jogged to the stage.

A local musician would like his cover of “Brokenheartsville” to have some violin accompaniment.

Open mic nights, similar to this one held two days after Christmas at Humble’s Green Oaks Tavern, were an entrance into the music scene when she moved to Texas in 2015, said Nguyen.

They gave her a chance to keep on bowing, make like-minded friends and call a new city home. She said that 2018 was a busy year for her whereas it was only “three gigs a year” between 2015 and 2017. She said she is expecting an even bigger 2019.

“I actually went two years without playing the violin,” she said. “I just started showing up at the open mic nights — that’s how I got my name out there. I started saying, ‘Hey, do you want a violinist?’ and they went, ‘Oh yeah, play along with me.’ Then they were like, ‘Oh crap, she knows what she’s doing, she’s not a backyard-taught, hoedown fiddler, but got the classical training.’”

Nguyen would never play the same song twice, citing a love for improvisation and, sometimes, the number of drinks consumed.

She first picked up the violin while studying at Meadow Montessori in Monroe, Michigan — the flute was actually Nguyen’s first-choice, but her instructor said her arms were too short.

Nguyen was adopted her from an orphanage in Ba Ria-Vung Tau, a coastal city in Vietnam.

The only details Nguyen knew about her birth mother were that she was 15 and not in good health.

“They never had to sit me down and say, ‘Just to let you know, we’re not your real parents’ or ‘FYI, you’re not gonna grow up and have curly hair,’” she said. “It just clicked.”

They also gave Nguyen a Western name from her original one — Bach Dang, which translates to the flowering plant Wisteria in English. One of the items on Nguyen’s to-do list is visiting Vietnam to learn more about her roots and explore her home town.

As long as fun is present in an activity, she said she didn’t mind getting her hands dirty.

In addition to being a violinist, Nguyen is also a bench jeweler for the jewelry store Jared, an occupation she picked up after a herniated disc prevented her from completing her musical theater-violin performance double major in college.

“I’m a little bit nervous that if I slip with the tools or something I could injure one of my fingers, and that’d be more detrimental than me breaking my legs at this point,” she said.

Although Nguyen does perform at different venues, most of which are acquired through networking, her mainstay is Green Oaks Tavern, the bar below her residence.

She hopes that there will come to a point where her distinct talents will take her far.

“I’m not playing strictly classical,” Nguyen said. “I can do country hoedowns. Then I can do Three Days Grace.”


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