-What instrument do you play and why did you choose it?
I play the violin and I originally chose it because I didn’t think that I could carry the cello, but then I found out that the violin was a good starting point.
-Can you tell me a little about your background and your musical journey?
I am 14 years old and a high school freshman. I have been listening to music all of my life and started playing the violin in the beginning of 5th grade of Elementary School. I met Mr. Johnson at my school where he was teaching string classes. I tried the violin and from the moment I picked up the instrument, I fell in love with it. I originally started playing with Mr. Johnson in the strings class. I was also one of his first private students at the time. I continue to play the violin and have progressed to doing solo performances as well as playing in ensembles and orchestras. I have performed in many concerts and venues; I have performed with people within as well as outside of SOUNDS Academy. Mr. Kirk really helped me learn music as a whole new language. He has taught me different techniques that I apply outside of music. For example, he taught me that counting musical beats could help to improve my mathematical skills. He helped me improve my playing of the violin so much and I don’t think that I could have had a better teacher. He really believed in me and encouraged me. Now, I have a great love and appreciation for music and I am very happy that I was one of his first students.
-Has music affected your life, if so, how?
Yes, music has affected my life in some of the best ways possible. It has helped me learn a new way of communicating. It has also opened a new passion that has enthralled my life and I am motivated to pursue this passion. In addition, music has given me many opportunities.
-What have you learned from being at SOUNDS Academy that has helped you?
Overall, SOUNDS Academy has given me numerous opportunities to express myself through music when I play with other people as well as by myself. I have met many amazing people including great musicians at summer camp, who have helped me in my life. SOUNDS Academy has given me the opportunity to practice my instrument and make improvements. Over the past five years, I have done master classes with members of The Phoenix Symphony; I have played at places like Frank Lloyd Wright’s House, Herberger Theater, the Mesa Arts Center performing Christmas music before the main show started, and about 4 times at The Nash. I’ve also performed in my local community at the Palm Valley Center. In addition, I have performed with the West Valley Youth Orchestra. These experiences have helped me learn and grow in my own musicianship. I am grateful for these opportunities and might not have had them without the help of SOUNDS Academy.
-Why do you think practice is necessary?
Practicing is necessary to improve any kind of skill set. Typically, for most of the pieces I do, each piece gets harder as I progress and some sections need more work than others. However, I can break it down with my teacher or use a metronome when practicing by myself. It’s really helpful to use the metronome to slow things down so that nothing is too difficult to work with. Sometimes, I get some difficult pieces, but with time and practice I make constant improvements. Practice is what makes the music sound better. As I make more improvements, I feel better about the piece, and the piece eventually sounds more cohesive. Practice is one of those things that I may not want to do, but know that it is necessary for me to grow, challenge myself and bring new ideas to my teacher.
-4 years ago you went backstage in a concert, then a few months ago you had the chance to play on it. What was the backstage experience like?
Yes, 4 years ago I watched Mr. Johnson play with the West Valley Symphony at the Valley Vista High School, and just this year, I played in a side-by-side concert with the symphony. The backstage experience was really insightful. I had the opportunity to meet several professional musicians. I learned that some of them started at my age and have developed their skills through adulthood. It was a really great experience and made me see that classical music is still alive. It made me see that people of many different backgrounds can come together to play music; I saw how people of separate communities outside of my school can come together. It was a really fun experience that inspired me to play in orchestras and ensembles.
-Last month you were able to play on that same stage, how did that feel?
It was such an amazing experience, I had so much fun as a musician and I got advice from adults that were musicians. On that stage, I felt the resonance that we had together with my orchestra and the symphony playing side-by-side. It was one of my favorite experiences in my musical journey. Although I had joined the orchestra late, I learned new techniques and ideas, and learned that when I help others around me in an orchestra I also improve my own playing. It was a good experience for me as a 14 year old and I would do it again.
-How did you prepare for the concert musically and mentally?
Mentally, I tried not to be nervous, which was hard for me. I also tried not to stress myself out with schoolwork or practice. I tried to make everything perfect so that it was all aligned. It was important that I knew the changes that the conductor would make. It was also helpful to practice and know the parts that the others were playing around me, like whether or not a certain section was playing the same beat as me. I practiced to play at the right beat for orchestra music, particularly for concerts. I knew that it was important to come in on time or stop on time as that brought emphasis and more attention to the music, whether I played solo, in an ensemble, or an orchestra. I practiced until I was comfortable that I could play the music correctly. Although I was nervous, I wanted all my mental and physical energy to translate the musical notes on paper into perfect sounds during the concert. Those preparation steps improved my confidence.
-Did you play with your teachers on stage?
Yes, my current private lessons teacher, Ms. Amanda Romani, played too. We had similar parts. She played first violin and I played second violin and she helped me figure out the different parts of the music.
-Are there any future plans or dreams that you would like to accomplish?
I want to participate in regional and state orchestras in my later high school years. I’m a freshman, and still have time to prepare, but I would love to be able to participate in those two orchestras. I would also like to attend a SOUNDS Academy summer camp again. I have attended SOUNDS Academy’s summer camps for several years. I really enjoyed and looked forward to them.
-Why are organizations like SOUNDS Academy important?
I think that they are important because they give children who do not have an opportunity to play an instrument, the opportunity to do so. These programs help inspire kids and high schoolers who may not have any background in music, and will open up a whole new way and lifestyle of communicating. SOUNDS Academy has provided so much for me. I have been able to practice and play classical music and keeps the beauty of it alive. SOUNDS Academy has opened up new opportunities for kids who cannot afford to pursue music, or be there for kids who may only want to try music instruments out and not be a lifetime thing, but at least they’re expanding and just being able to spread that which is what’s important because nobody ever knows if they love playing an instrument until they try it. I didn’t know that I was ever going to play an instrument until I started SOUNDS Academy.
-Between the characteristics of creativity, leadership, perseverance, resilience, and teamwork, which speaks the most about your journey so far?
So far, I think perseverance and teamwork speak the most about my journey. I say perseverance because when I first started playing the violin, it was completely new to me. It was a lot of hard work as a fifth grader to take the time to learn the parts. If I didn’t persevere and constantly push myself to accomplish these goals, then the love that sparked when I first played would not flourish. I don’t think that I would have succeeded if I didn’t persevere and ask for help.
The other characteristic is teamwork. When I first started, it was just me and the teacher as a team. I gradually learned when the teacher gave me advice and techniques about practice. That was teamwork right there. Then there’s teamwork with other people. I learned to communicate and also give and receive feedback in an ensemble. Feedback has helped me and the people around me too. At another level, teamwork in an orchestra is also important because I need to think about me and the entire body of people who are playing music together. Group playing also needs perseverance, because I will always be challenged to push myself in order to learn and grow. That’s why I think perseverance and teamwork have been most apparent in my life.
-Is there anything else you would like to add about yourself or music?
Music is beautiful and some people don’t understand how that beauty can affect other people. For me, it includes how I approach music, how I perceive practicing, knowing a scale, being able to play a piece, or sharing my experience and knowledge with a younger student. I am genuinely happy that I have something in my life that is so consistent and brings something to me that nothing else can. Some people play sports, but I don’t think that there is anything comparable to the joy of music. Music has given me numerous opportunities. I have found myself crying over an audition that I never thought I would make. Whenever I audition for an orchestra, I am signing myself up to play with other people and improve myself while others are doing the same. It’s a mental game for me that always keeps me on my toes. Music makes me happy and gives me fulfillment when I don’t want to worry about school and the other struggles of life; it is an emotional outlet for me. I think it’s really important for other people to experience what music can do for them.
“It made me see that people of many different backgrounds can come together to play music; I saw how people of separate communities outside of my school can come together.”