One Girl Symphony

With today’s technology, it doesn’t matter where you are from, or what your passion, you can find an audience and achieve success. Today I’m talking with Whitney Vandell, aka One Girl Symphony, from Ethiopia. She is making an musical impact, globally.

Tony Coke: I’m quite excited. I don’t think I’ve ever talked to anyone from Ethiopia before! Where in Ethiopia exactly? And, have you always been involved with music?

One Girl Symphony:
I live in Addis Ababa but I was adopted at the age of two by an Austrian-American woman serving as a missionary who was a classically trained musician and teacher. Growing up I spent much of my childhood following my mother living among tribal people in remote areas across Africa.

There was always music around the house and we had one of the few private grand pianos in Addis. Seeing how little there is here in terms of entertainment and my mother being a rather private person living on the outskirts of town, most of the time we would just spend playing and listening to music together. It’s just the way it always was and I don’t remember a time when music wasn’t a part of my life.


Tony Coke: You obviously have a big project going on, and it sounds pretty ambitions. Tell us about it.

One Girl Symphony:
I recently released my album ‘One Girl Symphony’ that is available on CD, DVD film and an Android app. I spent the last ten years writing and recording it. The album is acoustically recorded with only real instrumental performances featuring nearly twenty different musicians from around the world contributing in an online music collective.

Tony Coke: Remote collaboration is becoming more and more normal these days. How did that process work for you? Was it a challenge being in Ethiopia? I would think the internet connections may not be as fast in other parts of the world.

One Girl Symphony:
I collaborated with musicians from around the world over the Internet where I sent MP3 files of backing tracks and got their instrumental recordings as high quality music files on Dropbox. With the internet here in Ethiopia I could sometimes take a almost a day to sync so it was a challenge in itself. The biggest part of the Internet collaboration was with the violinist of William Stewart who was living in a remote cottage in southern France during this period.

The One Girl Symphony has been so well received, they even performed at TEDx.

Live @ TEDx – Addis Ababa from One Girl Symphony on Vimeo.

Tony Coke: Congratulations on getting the project completed. It must have taken forever! What was your motivation to keep going?

One Girl Symphony:
Though I like to think I don’t feel a need to prove myself or impress on anyone, spending thousands of hours working on a handful of tracks, I would be lying if I didn’t want the music to reach more people than myself. When I got into rock music in high school Slash from Guns n Roses became the father figure I never had when growing up. In the back of my mind when working on all these song I secretly planned to one day play them for Slash and afterwards drive over to Axl’s house to jam and hang out. I’m still planning for that to happen.

Tony Coke: OMG that’s awesome!! I think we all have scenarios we imagine like that to keep us going. By the way, Slash came to the radio station I was working at several years ago. He had that “I’ve been wearing the same leather clothes on a tour bus for five days with no shower” vibe (smell) going on. He was very nice, but I didn’t get to jam with him 🙁
What’s coming up next for you? Any plans to tour globally?

One Girl Symphony:
I have no idea! I just try to do the most of what is right in front of me, trying every day to absorb new inspiration and ways to express my feelings. I am ready for my next project to have a very long time horizon and I expect it to take many years just like with One Girl Symphony.

Tony Coke: You can hear the album on all streaming services and www.OneGirlSymphony.com, as well as iTunes
You can also get the One Girl Symphony app for android at