2024 Senior Appreciation

2024 Senior Appreciation

This year four Seniors graduated from SOUNDS Academy!

We talked with them to see what plans they have for their future and how SOUNDS Academy helped them prepare for this next chapter of their lives.

Erin 2024 Benefit Concert

Erin Larson

Erin Larson has been a member of SOUNDS Academy for 9 years. In the beginning she learned to play the violin. She later switched to playing the viola in 5th grade and has been doing so for 7 years. 

She switched to the viola because “I got too big for the violin and Mr. Kirk said that it was better for me to switch when I was younger so that I wouldn’t have to start a new instrument later”. Erin said “When I had the chance to really hear the viola, I realized I liked the sound of the viola more than the violin. There’s an album Romantic Showpieces for viola and piano by Mark Neumann and En-Chi Anna Ho that I really love. It has some incredible music in it that I aspire to play.”

“SOUNDS Academy was the first experience I had where I was involved with music. At the time, SOUNDS Academy was offered through my elementary school, Archway Classical Academy. I love the way that SOUNDS Academy teaches music, and I really like the community at SOUNDS Academy. Music has helped me to improve my self-confidence, public speaking and stress management skills. Overall, it has improved my life.”

Erin’s favorite part about SOUNDS Academy is “The SOUNDS Academy Student Success Planning Workshops (which happen 3 times a year for SOUNDS Academy SOLO Program Students). It really helped me learn to improve writing admissions and scholarship essays.”

Speaking about the 5 SOUNDS Academy Character Values (Creativity, Leadership, Perseverance, Resilience, and Teamwork), Erin said, “All the SOUNDS Academy values are points that I incorporate into my life now and will continue to do so as an adult.”

Future and Aspirations: “I’ll be attending Northern Arizona University (NAU) to pursue a Bachelor of Science in biology. I would like to work as a researcher studying deep sea invertebrates. I will also be auditioning for the orchestra at NAU.

Lucio “Nathaniel” Garcia

Lucio “Nathaniel” Garcia has been a member of SOUNDS Academy for 9 years. “I play both the violin and the piano. I chose to play the violin because when Mr. Kirk (Our Founder and CEO) introduced me to the violin, I was drawn towards it because I liked the sound and was curious about the capabilities it had. I wanted to play the piano a few years later because my parents gifted me a keyboard and I loved it as much as the violin.”

I am the first in my family to be born in the US, the first to receive a private catholic education, and the first musician in my family. My parents made sacrifices so that my sister and I had opportunities available to us. Throughout my journey, I have developed my musical skills and I’ve recently gone into the realm of music theory and composition. I found these to be extraordinary and decided that I wanted to pursue a major in music. I composed two pieces, The Hero’s Journey and Destinies of Villains, for college admissions. In addition, my school orchestra performed them and my school director, Dr. Jonathan Robinson, DMA, gave me the honor and privilege to conduct the orchestra during the performance this past spring.”

Nathaniel 2024 Benefit Concert

About music Nathaniel said,I would say that music opened my eyes to a new world of creativity and imagination. Music helped me discover this new realm where people can come to escape reality. I want to create music not to tell my own story or immerse people  in my world, but so that people can create their own stories and immerse themselves in their own world. I find this to be one of the many beauties of human passion and imagination.”

Nathaniel’s favorite part about SOUNDS Academy is “When asked about his favorite of the 5 SOUNDS Academy Character Values (Creativity, Leadership, Perseverance, Resilience, and Teamwork) Nathaniel said, “I’d say that they all speak out to me because I’ve had to use all of them at some point in my life, even recently. I’d say that one of the most notable ones is perseverance because without it, the other characteristics would not have flourished, and I would not have overcome the laziness or lack of motivation I had towards music and be where I am today.”

“Organizations like SOUNDS Academy are important because they have the capability to teach music to kids of all ages and they are accessible to anyone. I love the idea that education should not be restricted to anyone, and SOUNDS Academy is a role model for that.”

Future and aspirations: “My most notable dream and goal is that I want to become an accomplished composer and filmmaker, specifically in the Hollywood industry. I think of myself as a storyteller because I love telling stories and I love to use literary elements to add to the story and make it an impactful and meaningful one. Music will remain in my life because it is something that I want to study and pursue as a career.”

Sarah 2024 Benefit Concert

Sarah Pineda

Sarah Pineda has been a member of SOUNDS Academy since 2014, when she was 8 years old. “I play the violin. I chose this instrument because I always loved the way the violin sounded, and the way musicians looked so cool playing it; it just felt right to me – it was like fate.”

Sarah was born in California in 2006 and moved to Arizona permanently in 2017. She says, “I am a daughter of a single mother who has 2 daughters, and my grandmother also helped raise me and my sister. I first heard about SOUNDS Academy when I was in Rancho Santa Fe Elementary school. I enrolled as soon as I heard this was a strings program. Since that time, SOUNDS has helped me in my musical journey. I have played in orchestras, quartets, solo, and one duet.” Sarah has performed in many venues including the Onyx Art Gallery, Symphony Hall, and the Mesa Arts Center. She was also one of the original members of the SOUNDS Academy Collective String Ensemble.

About music Sarah said, “It has affected my life in positive ways.  It has helped me get more musical experiences and opportunities than I could ever imagine. Some of the people who I have met will be my long-term friends. It not only helped me musically, but has also helped me learn valuable character traits that will stick with me for life.”

Sarah said about the 5 SOUNDS Academy Character Values (Creativity, Leadership, Perseverance, Resilience, and Teamwork), “Perseverance is the character value that speaks best to my journey. I did not always have the perfect performance and have sometimes been disappointed, but I just kept moving forward and worked even harder. After experiencing some setbacks, I have had some successes. I know many students can relate to this.”

Future and Aspirations: “My plans are to study hard and be able to graduate with a degree in medical studies at Arizona State University. I also hope to join an orchestra so that I can continue playing music in my free time after I graduate college.”

Shirley Zou

Shirley Zou has been a member of SOUNDS Academy since 7th grade. “I play the violin and I chose it because I had been learning piano and taking lessons for a while. Also, my mom wanted me to try out violin since my marvelous brother, Raymond, had started playing the violin as well.”

Shirley’s older brother Raymond was recommended by a friend to join SOUNDS Academy and Shirley joined soon after. “Music has always been a big part of my life. I started taking piano lessons when I was 5 years old and I enjoyed playing a lot, although I struggled to practice. I’ve grown to really appreciate playing and I have truly learned how to play and appreciate the art of music.”

Music has always been something I’ve enjoyed, from listening to music to learning how to play; the satisfaction of mastering a piece and playing it through is always a good feeling. As a member of SOUNDS Academy, I have participated in various concerts. The experience is always nerve-wracking no matter how many times I have gone up on stage. However, I have learned to face my fears and know that as long as I do my best, I’ll still get an applause at the end of the day.

Shirley 2024 Benefit Concert

Shirley said that SOUNDS Academy has helped her with a lot of things. “I have learned that practice, dedication and putting in the time will take you a long way. It matters that you try hard and do your best because everyone starts somewhere and everyone in SOUNDS Academy is there to support and help you. Organizations like SOUNDS Academy are important because they create a supportive community and give anyone who wants to learn how to play an instrument a safe and comfortable place to learn and grow. It gives kids new opportunities and experiences that they probably wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else. SOUNDS Academy is a great organization for everyone to come together and bond over music and become a family and I hope to see it continue to grow and prosper.”

When asked about the 5 SOUNDS Academy Character Values, (Creativity, Leadership, Perseverance, Resilience, and Teamwork) she said, “Perseverance, speaks the most about my journey because I’ve learned to keep going even when I think my playing skills are not the best and I can do a lot better. It has motivated me to keep going and not give up on learning how to play the violin.”

Future and Aspirations: “I plan to attend Arizona State University (ASU) and study health sciences to see if I like it. Then I may pursue a degree in nursing. In the future I hope to find something in life that I can be passionate about, enjoy and help me to be successful. I also want to adopt a cat. I plan to always keep music as a special part in my life, as I hope to take what I’ve learned and continue to return to it. Thank you, SOUNDS Academy!”