Nearly fifteen years ago, a little girl picked up a violin to practice for the very first time. Last year, that same girl performed a solo at Shepherds’ Conference. “It was wonderful to see,” says Dr. Ken Mays, adjunct professor in the Music Department. “Instantly, 3,500 pastors from all over the world stood up and gave her a standing ovation. She’s marvelous.”
Enoria Lee is marvelous. Everyone who has heard her play will say as much. However, her skill on the violin did not come easily—and neither did her decision to attend TMU.
Enoria Lee grew up in China; and while she always hoped to study at a conservatory during her college years, she never thought she would attend a small university in Santa Clarita, California. But her family happened to be friends with a Chinese American couple who split their time between the two countries. When they were in the US, this couple attended Placerita Bible Church. Through them, Enoria learned about TMU.
“I applied for fun. I applied purely to practice my English. I never thought I was going to be here.” Meanwhile, Enoria had her hopes set elsewhere.
She applied to several conservatories across Europe. The schools who heard her perform were understandably awed. Since picking up the instrument at five years old, Enoria had progressed to practicing for multiple hours a day. “It became a part of me,” Enoria says. And when people heard her play, they could tell.
Dr. Mays remembers hearing a recording of her for the first time. “I saw it, and I went, ‘Wow.’” When TMU’s violin teacher Michael Ferril heard her, he knew that she was a first-rate performer. The department wanted Enoria at TMU.
However, Master’s wasn’t the only school impressed by Enoria. “There was a teacher who came from Royal Birmingham Conservatoire in England,” says Enoria. “She came to my city to have this violin masterclass. So I went to the class, and she was amazed by my playing, and the Lord blessed me with a full scholarship to that school. From then on, my family and I were trying to decide between Master’s and this school in England.”
“I was asking around my church, my family, my relatives, my friends, my teacher, about which one to pick. All of them told me to pick England.”
In some ways, England was the obvious choice. The conservatory had a long history and a lot of built-up prestige. But in spite of the overwhelming weight of advice, Enoria and her parents were uncertain.
“Since I picked up violin when I was very little, my parents always taught me that our purpose of learning violin is to worship the Lord. To glorify the Lord using whatever he gave us . . . Ultimately, everything I do—not just violin—I want to do it for the Lord.”
Enoria’s parents had never settled for doing the easiest thing. When Enoria was young, they left their government-sanctioned church for one that was dedicated to teaching God’s Word faithfully, regardless of the consequences. So, their daughter’s success as a violinist was not the only thing they cared about.
“We considered Master’s a better environment, spiritually and culturally. My parents definitely pay more attention to my spiritual growing.”
It was a difficult decision to make, and one that had tremendous implications for the future. “You can really see the two paths, which lead to different environments and a different spiritual life later on. Different friends, different teachers.”
Ultimately, Enoria decided on Master’s. She packed up her violin, flew to the other side of the globe, and settled into a room in Dixon Hall.
This decision went against what nearly everyone she knew had suggested. The backlash was intense. “My violin professor back home was super disappointed in me, because he had such hope put on me . . . Everyone else who suggested the other conservatory thought my family were fools.”
During the process of making this difficult decision, and while facing the fallout that came from it, Enoria had to learn to trust the Lord’s will. And being here now, she is deeply grateful for what God has done through her decision to attend Master’s.
“The Lord has been so gracious to me.” Her friends at the school, her RA in Dixon, and her professors in the Music Department have all blessed her greatly.
Additionally, in the short time she’s been a student, she has already performed solos at multiple conferences in the States: the Shepherds’ Conference, the Truth Matters Conference, and the Sing! Conference organized by the Gettys.
“Since I’ve been here, the Lord has provided me with so many chances to do music ministry. I’ve served a couple of events with my violin, and I’ve learned a lot from them. To me, the spiritual growth is really vital. I can see how music encourages other people. How music shows other people God’s glory, and also my testimony.”
But for Enoria, the biggest lessons of the past three semesters haven’t been about musical performance. Instead, they’ve been about things like thankfulness, joy, and humility.
“Master’s has been teaching me something more important [than musical technique]: how to better worship. Not only using violin, but using everything—every detail in my life . . . It’s so easy for me to say, ‘I’m doing this for the Lord,’ on the stage, but it’s even more important to live it out, and to do it in daily life.”
Playing a masterful violin solo is just one way of worshipping God. And Enoria’s story of God’s work in her life is only one story of many.
“Everyone here, behind them they have a glorious testimony. Everybody.”