Anna Wolle is an artist, musician, and writer who has devoted a large part of her life to the arts and arts advocacy. A person of many interests, she sees music as a unifying factor that has significantly impacted the different stages of her life. Since the age of four, Anna has studied classical violin in her home state of Iowa, and later added other musical opportunities such as opera study, jazz improvisation, and musical theatre. Music offered Anna a door to traveling the world. From orchestra tours in China, Argentina, and Uruguay to concert-going in France and Italy, Anna soon found that music was a universal language that allows people to communicate no matter their differences.
Wanting to continue learning more about this universal language and its nuances, Anna set off for Dakar, the capital of Senegal, in July of 2017. There she spent six weeks working as a teacher of visual arts and music with Sunu Thiossane (sunuthiossane.org), an arts agency that promotes children’s empowerment through music, visual arts, spoken word, dance, and theater. Anna brought her violin with her, and was able to play along with the Sunu Thiossane choir and in the program’s final performance at the Grand Theatre of Dakar. As she continued to witness the wish many of the students had to learn to play the violin, she became inspired to return to the country to teach students in schools and organizations.
In July of 2018, a newly graduated Anna returned to Senegal to live and work as a professional musician and teacher. She founded Teranga Strings (Teranga meaning 'hospitality' in the Wolof language) as an El Sistema-inspired social venture which connects students of many ages and economic backgrounds to violin lessons. The mission of Teranga Strings is to promote well-being, passionate creativity, and community building through artistic expression for all. The project was a success, as Anna won two different entrepreneurial competitions at St. Olaf College which awarded her money to purchase violins. She bought and shipped 40 violins to Dakar, Senegal, and began teaching private lessons as well as group lessons in an elementary school.
While in Dakar, Anna also joined guitarist and folk story writer Elhadji Leeboon to form Groupe Leeboon: Anna and Elhadji. The two fused styles of music from West Africa and folk America, played along to the folk tale-inspired lyrics Elhadji created. Groupe Leeboon performed regularly in national concert halls, the French Institute, restaurants, and on the beach. The duo collaborated with a local keyboardist to produce their small album 'Toukki', or 'trip' in Wolof.
Wanting to bolster Teranga Strings and learn more through experience and graduate studies, Anna moved back to Cedar Rapids, IA in April of 2019. There, she is working as a violin teacher in the El Sistema-inspired school The Harmony School of Music. She is subbing in local Eastern Iowa symphonies, playing chamber music with her cellist younger sister Ella, and creating several arts advocacy projects to launch in schools. Anna hopes to spend these couple of years in the US developing the marketing strategy, teacher numbers, and overall infrastructure of Teranga Strings so that she can soon return to Senegal with concrete plans to sustainably grow the program.