Aide finds harmony between violin, politics

Chastine Hulsey, a new legislative correspondent for Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), picked up the violin at age 7. But she’s progressed far from her first song, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” and now has hopes to one day play in a professional orchestra.

Hulsey, 23, and her younger sister have their elementary-school carpool to thank for introducing both of them to the violin. The two girls would have to listen to one of their playmate’s private violin lessons in the process of getting a ride home. After sitting through enough lessons without being able to participate, Hulsey approached her mom.

“I want to do that,” she remembers telling her mom.

Her parents said yes, but they had no idea what they were getting into. Hulsey plunged into private lessons, group lessons, theory class and orchestra practice every week. Even though she remembers frustrating moments — such as when her “teacher would stand in the room and bang on the table as a metronome” while demanding that she find a hard note — Hulsey grew to love the violin.

“It’s like going back to the 1700s,” she says, referring to the atmospheric change she feels when playing the classical music in which she was trained. “I used to tell people it’s a way of escaping the modern-day world.”

During spare moments outside her demanding violin schedule, Hulsey also developed an interest in politics. She took a government class in high school that piqued her curiosity, and when it came time to decide on college, she had thinking to do.

“When you get to a point, while you’re 17 or 18, you have to realize, are you good enough to be a concert violinist, or are you just average? And I was not that genius person,” she says humbly. While contemplating whether to attend Texas Christian University, which boasts of an esteemed music program, or Texas A&M University, whose Bush School of Government and Public Service also looked attractive, she remembers asking herself, “Can I, when I graduate, make a living out of music?”

In response to her own question, she answers, “Only if you are incredibly good, and it is your passion and your life and your drive, should you pursue that. And it wasn’t my entire life. I absolutely loved it, but I wanted to have a different career.”

Hulsey chose Texas A&M, where she majored in political science but continued to play violin while pursuing a music minor.

As her interest in politics grew, she sought a Hill internship. Hulsey landed two the summer after her junior year in college, first with Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) and then with Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-La.). She shopped her résumé around again after graduating from Texas A&M in August 2007 and secured a legislative correspondent position in Rep. Paul Broun’s (R-Ga.) office.

Now, as she settles in with Gohmert’s staff, she sees herself staying in politics — possibly heading toward international affairs — and also keeps her violin nearby. She plays at weddings and is looking for a local quartet to join.

One day Hulsey would like to play in a professional orchestra, but for now, she’s content to be a conventional musician.

“You know, I just love playing,” she says. “I just like practicing for myself.”