Being born into a family teeming with singers and musicians, Tobago-born Ashley Murray has been around music her entire life. Suitably, she was introduced to music at a very young age, and exposed to a sundry of instruments, including the recorder, harmonica, piano, and guitar. Having developed her skill on these specific instruments to an intermediate level, none quite captured her attention like the steel pan.
Murray said her love for the pan kindled during high school, where she joined the school’s steel orchestra and began playing the guitar pan. Later, she alternated to the triple cello, then satisfyingly settled on the bass. Soon, she became the band’s captain and dealt with, then overcame the challenges attached to her new role.
Murray’s love for the steel pan and music were potent enough to convince students — some who had never played the instrument — to become a part of the orchestra. Dedicatedly, she spent her entire lunch breaks in the music room, teaching each student how to play. This passion extended to her willingness to learn not only her part, but those of other sections, which made sharing notes much easier. It was an effort that was rewarding to the team as well as her character as a team player.
She holds distinctions in the Republic Bank Pan Minors Music Literacy Level I and II program in Trinidad and Tobago. She actively works to become a better pannist by practicing consistently, studying the craft, teaching others and working closely with professional musicians, including her mentor, Ryan “The Scientist” John.
Murray holds a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems (cum laude) from City University of New York — Brooklyn College. She brings her information technology and musical skills to Tropicalfete, Inc., a Brooklyn-based not-for-profit multi-cultural arts organization. Murray teaches about 20 students weekly the steel pan music instrument and musical theory. She prepares the students for various musical showcases and recitals.
“My inspiration is drawn from my life, my experiences and the people around me,” Murray said. “I’m fortunate to have a very supportive family who has kept me grounded and a circle of friends who encourage and believe in me even when I don’t believe in myself.
“My students also play an integral part in motivating me to grow and develop musically, so I can impart the knowledge to them,” she said.