The Rhapsody Project’s paid interns are funded by generous donors and grants. They are deeply embedded in the development of our organization—especially as we pivot from the pandemic to the new world. In addition to conducting independent projects exploring personal and cultural heritage, our interns run tRp’s social media accounts and learning bankable skills as they prepare to join the cultural workforce.
Mariah Roberson is a multi-instrumentalist who studies and practices blues, jazz, and popular American music. She started with classical and jazz cello in elementary school, and continued to pursue those passions at Washington Middle School. In 2017, the orchestra director there, Beth Fortune, was impressed by Mariah’s talents and connected her to The Rhapsody Project (TRP).
Sponsored by TRP, Mariah and four other students traveled to Port Townsend for the Port Townsend Acoustic Blues Festival. In this week-long festival, she studied piano, guitar and vocals with renowned musicians from across America. Mariah’s great grandmother being from Jonesville, Louisiana - a town 43 miles southwest of Alexandria, LA - enabled her to feel especially connected to the music of Corey Ledet and Sunpie Barnes, two zydeco musicians from the south that attended the festival.
She continued to develop her gifts in cello, vocals, and guitar after entering high school in South Seattle. Mariah began to perform in a guitar and fiddle duo with her friend Edien Nega, a violinist she had become friends with through TRP and going to middle school together. Their duo graced many stages in South Seattle, often community events to fundraise for The Rhapsody Project and Seattle JazzEd to bring more music into Seattle Public Schools.
In addition to The Rhapsody Project, Mariah was involved in many school and extracurricular activities. To match her music ambitions, she is also a multi-sported athlete. She is a passionate track & field and cross country runner, who likes to spend her winters having fun with her school’s gymnastics team. She was also involved in her school’s Black Student Union. On weekends, after school, or days she doesn’t have meets or performances, Mariah likes to keep herself busy skateboarding; a hobby that has turned into a passion in recent years.
Mariah has continued to attend PT Blues Festival with The Rhapsody Project, helping to build the youth programming by supporting and learning from other students in her age bracket. She also helped pilot a TRP program at Wintergrass Festival in Bellevue. At the festival, Mariah performed and began to learn about the breadth and depth of career options in the music industry.
Nowadays, Mariah is an intern helping to develop TRP and its internal systems; always wanting to give perspective and thoughts surrounding cultural equity and how we can make programming more accessible. In the land of social media, Mariah steadily calls out racism and prejudice in both her personal circles and work she does with Rhapsody. However, the pandemic has called for more productive hand work than having twitter wars with neo-nazis, so she has picked up amatuer wood working. One of her most recent projects was replacing the handle of a maul axe.
You can follow Mariah @mariahs.roberson on instagram and check in with TRP’s instagram which she also runs @therhapsodyproject
Tate Linden is an intern for the Rhapsody Project in a partnership with Northwest Folklife. He has been working with the tRp and related programs since he was eleven years old. He first started playing the violin at age nine, but never really connected with music until joining an after-school program at his middle school called Junor Fiddlers, which was a precursor to the Rhapsody Project. The programs he has gotten to take part in through this organization have given him a place where he could really get to connect with other people through music in a way that motivated him to become as invested in music as he is now.
For as long as Tate can remember, he has lived in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, on Coastal Salish and Duwamish land. He is Jewish and queer, and has been exploring both of those aspects of his heritage lately. He has been working on developing the Rhapsody Project’s Yiddish music program, and in the process of that, he has been learning about the history of klezmer music, Jewish social movements, and queer Jewish people throughout history.
He plays guitar and violin, and is drawn to a wide range of genres, from blues to classical to klezmer to movie music. He has performed in orchestras, the pit for a musical, the band for the background of an independent film (called Boyish), jazz bands, and in his own, student-led bands. And, outside of music, Tate studies environmental science and biology, and hopes to one day become a wildlife biologist, to combine his love for biology and animals with his love for being outdoors.
In addition to his work on the Yiddish music program, Tate helps run the music classes that Rhapsody offers for young students, organizes the Facebook page, and helps Rhapsody with its work for racial justice.
Edien Nega was born in 2004 in Seattle, Washington. Her parents immigrated from Semien Gondar Zone of the Amhara Region of Ethiopia in 1983, and taught Edien to speak Amharic while raising her in South Seattle. At John Muir Elementary School, Edien began studying the violin with Mr. Holmes at age 11, and continued under the tutelage of Beth Fortune at Washington Middle School.
One day, in the middle school cafeteria, Edien was fiddling away to “Boil ‘Em Cabbage Down,” when she was overheard by TRP co-founder Joe Seamons. She was excited to be invited into the Jr. Fiddlers after school program, where she began working with Joe alongside Ben Hunter. Despite the social pressure from her African and Black American friends to “not be corny,” or “do that white people shit,” Edien persisted in her study of the violin. At first it was an excuse to get out of class. But, playing with TRP unlocked another personality in her, helping her discover a new dimension. Joining TRP showed her the ways in which she was different from most people of her generation, and that her real self was very unique.
Meanwhile, in her family’s church community, Edien would regularly play a large kebero (a form of drum) while leading the choir. She would learn new songs for each celebration at St. Gabriel Ethiopian Orthodox church.
Transitioning to eighth grade, Edien removed herself from drama among her peers by going to Ms. Fortune’s room and finding peace in her violin. This time - along with Ms. Fortune’s personal influence - was essential for giving Edien space and freedom to explore her love of herself and the instrument. That passion continues to push Edien to play every day.
In 2018, Edien traveled with TRP for the first time to the Pt. Townsend Acoustic Blues Festival. Despite the unbalanced amount of old white people present, Edien really loved the community she found, and she made no bones about her harmless infatuation with one of her instructors, Marcus Cartwright. She also took great joy in Ben Payton’s blues history class.
Edien enrolled at Franklin High School in 2019, where there was not an effective continuation of Ms. Fortune’s violin curriculum. Attempting to enroll in the Roosevelt HS music program, Edien found that even the great snacks in the vending machine were not enough to outweigh the racist experiences she encountered in that school.
In 2021, weathering the global pandemic, Edien was accepted to TRP’s internship program, where she continues to explore her heritage as a Black American fiddler and multi-faceted tradition bearer.