Name: Jaime Jorge.
Birthplace: Santa Clara, Cuba.
Education: Bachelor of Arts in literature from the Wisconsin Conservatory in Milwaukee, Wisc.
Family: Father, Eugenio; mother, Mayda; and sister, Maydele.
Favorite piece to perform: Beethoven's Violin Concerto.
Favorite movie: "A Few Good Men."
Favorite book: "Atlas Shrugged."
First car: Light blue 1983 Chevrolet Chevette.
Person he'd like to meet: Paul McCartney.
Personal motto: "Quitters never win. Winners never quit."
IF YOU GO
• What: Jaime Jorge & Friends, 25th Anniversary Show featuring special guests Michael Card, Kirk Whalum and Larnelle Harris.
• When: 6:30-8:30 p.m., Nov. 25.
• Where: Collegedale Community Church, 4995 Swinyar Drive, Collegedale.
• Admission: $16.50.
• Phone: 238-7944.
• Website: www.JaimeJorge.com
Jaime Jorge walked a path strewn with plastic flower petals on his way to becoming a celebrated, world-traveled violinist.
During his childhood in communist
Cuba, Jorge's mother noticed her son's aptitude for music at age 3 when he taught himself to play melodies on an eight-key, plastic saxophone.
By the time he turned 5, she had enrolled him in private lessons. In a society in which most families were living hand to mouth, that was a luxury few could afford. To pay his teacher, Jorge's mother stayed up all night once a week making plastic flowers she would sell on the streets.
When Jorge was 10, his father submitted a formal request to leave Cuba on religious grounds. The family was approved, and they moved to the United States in 1980.
Years later, while playing Vittorio Monti's "Csardas" at a talent show at Loyola University of Chicago, Jorge discovered the power of music to move people. The realization radically changed his perspective on his talent.
"Everybody stood up and clapped for minutes and yelled. I was shocked," he said. "I thought that if music had that kind of power, I should take it seriously and use it to inspire and motivate and challenge others with it."
Years later, Jorge had a second realization, this time of a spiritual nature. Halfway through medical school, he was paying for his studies with near weekly concerts, but something felt off. He prayed to God for a sign of what he should do and afterward became convinced to pursue music full time.
For the last 25 years, Jorge, a resident of Ooltewah since 2001, has taken his musical ministry around the world. He has performed secular and religious selections in 42 countries on five continents, including appearances at Carnegie Hall, the Lincoln Center and on the Crystal Cathedral's "Hour of Power."
Q: Was the move to America meaningful to you at 10, or were you too young to realize its significance?
A: It was almost like going from a black-and-white TV to a color TV. The day we arrived, I chewed gum and ate an apple and a grape for the first time in my life. I went to a store, and I had never seen a store with shelves and clothing and food and snacks and drinks. We came from a very closed environment. We found Americans to be very kind, helpful and very generous and giving people.
Q: Do you have much contact with Cuba anymore?
A: I do go back. I am involved in a lot of mission work in Cuba. The nonprofit organization I work with -- La Voz de la Esperanza -- has a license from the U.S. government to go there. I've developed a passion for the people of Cuba. For 20 years, I couldn't go back.
Q: Your music seems intertwined with your faith. Do you use your concerts as a forum from which to minister to people?
A: Yes, very much so. My desire from my concerts is that people walk away motivated and inspired to use their God-given talents to serve God and humanity.
I have had people through the years who have told me ... the power of the music and the message and my words of testimony have made a huge impact in their lives. There's a certain satisfaction that comes with seeing that what you've done and what you've invested your life in has a positive impact on other people's lives.
Q: Where did you play your first international show?
A: It was in 1993 in Melbourne, Australia. It was another culture shock because Aussies have a different accent and a different demeanor -- not to mention kangaroos and koalas, which I'd never seen before.
I quickly found out in Australia -- and later in Europe, where I've spent a lot of time performing -- that music is something that brings us all together. Even if I was in Germany or Russia, I didn't have to speak the language to connect with people. As soon as I started playing my violin, everyone knew what the music was saying. That just blew my mind.
Q: Is music's ability to transcend cultural and language barriers especially true of classical music?
A: Certainly. In other parts of the world, where people are not that acclimated or accustomed to it, the effect it has on people is absolutely incredible. They sit there spell-bound. It does something for them. I think it expands their minds [because] classical music is so large in its composition.
Q: How does the ministering and sharing of your story work its way into your performances?
A: Oftentimes, I find the best way to do that is to talk and share things that make me come across as a human being, just like the people sitting there. It's a way to earn people's trust.
Music is one of the most powerful ways to communicate and affect people, and I take that very seriously. My desire for every concert is that, if something happens after the concert that I could never play music again, I could look back and think that that was the best concert I could have done.
Contact Casey Phillips at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.