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Im nervous. I never thought I would make it this far.

Before the spotlight hit me sweat was

already running down my forehead. The audience claps as I step up and a few seconds later there

was nothing, pure silence. I start to feel stiff as if I was entrapped in ice. The I took a deep breath

and the ice shatters, I was ready.

When I was in fourth grade a new opportunity came to me. It was a chance for a new

experience, But honestly back then it was more of an excuse to ditch class and have fun. I was

able to join the orchestra at my school, penn elementary. Without questioning it I picked violin

out instinct, It just seemed like the more fun instrument. A cello would be a pain to carry and a

viola was just strange to me. After one class of my excuse to ditch I was actually enjoying this.

Whenever I got to play some kind of joy would flow through my veins and a small smirk would

appear on my face as my left side of my chin rested on the violin. It became something I liked to

do at home although I didnt yet have an instrument of my own. Every Time we would walk into

the bungalows behind the school we would all try and find one of the schools instruments to use

for that hour of class. It was a struggle as sometimes people didn't get an instrument for that day,

there wasn't enough. An aspect that made me enjoy playing was the support of my family. For

example my uncle Julio has always been supportive of me no matter what, he is like a mentor or

a wise monk. And I connect him to a monk since he shares certain physical traits of one. He

heard about what I was doing after talking with my mom, Yomara. I still am grateful to this day

for his gift to me of my very first violin. For those two years I was one of the proud few who had

their instrument at all times. I loved it. We would perform once per semester and all the parents

would come and watch. Although I now realize that most of our songs were actually different
iterations of twinkle twinkle little star. Years later I think back and although it was fun and a new

start we sounded terrible back then. I have no idea how parents sat through that.

I had now shattered the ice and for the first time in my life I was performing as a soloist, it was a

dream come true, my dream, my goal I strived for, but really it was actually just a dream. I wake

up laying on my individual bottom bunk bed and see the same withered sheet of paper taped to

the bottom of the top bunk above me with goals and how to achieve them. My brother sleeping

in the bunk above and I.... just stared blankly at this sheet of paper of things I have achieved...

and things Ive given up. There was a small crack of sunlight as the day had barely began and the

curtains were not fully closed. The light hit my face but I ignored it as I just stared at this old

piece of paper, reading the list created a few years back. I never checked things as done.

Elementary ended and now began middle school. New campus, new people, starting all over

again. As time progressed I made new friends and adapted but I had left my musical interest

behind just as I did with penn elementary. I was encouraged to continue music by my family but

I just ignored their advice. My mom would say Hijo busca una maestra, ya no te gusta el violn

o que? Id respond saying no with the voice of a spoiled brat. No I would say. That part of my

life was over... or at least I thought it was. My middle school career flew by. Besides our two

core classes we had every year (math/science and humanities), I had to deal with theatre and

engineering which werent exactly my forte or something I looked forward to, but then there was

the third class. Art was more intriguing for me as when we learned the elements of art we later

began to create our own projects. The three years flew by and I was working on my last art
project as a middle schooler. At the time my sense of music was a very awkward mix of dubstep

or electronic music consisting of artists such as Skrillex and Diplo. The other ingredient to the

mix was film soundtrack, more specifically John Williams and his masterful work such as the

Star Wars original soundtrack and other like jurassic park, Indiana Jones, E.T, and so on. It was

so intriguing to me how his music is what created that emotion of a film, the structure and

foundation of it. I would always tell myself without music there is no movie. I based our final

art project on John Williams and his work. I called it the story of music. I thought this was just

my current taste in music but in a way it sparked something in my brain.

8th grade was when it all came back to me. I looked around me everyday and everyone had their

talents. The pianists, singers, guitarists, and so on, then there was me. Talentless until someone

that impacted my life came around. I wanted to show this person what they meant to me but I

didnt know how. My arts and crafts are as good as picassos perfect representation of the

average face, my voice as deep and rigid as an untuned bass. And the one talent I used to have

left behind. Due to my devotion to them I decided to begin anew. I went home that day digging

the depths of my closet looking for my old instrument. After much digging I finally noticed the

black thread case in the corner of the dark closet. The flashlight barely defined its shape. I took

the case out and slowly opened it not knowing what I might see after three years of storage. I

finally see the familiar red velvet interior just to find a pair of loose strings snapped from their

place. I guess it was a way of the world telling me you have a long road ahead. I got it fixed in

a few days of finally getting up and making the effort. Finally an old healed instrument back in

my hands ready to be played after its long wait. The first thing I heard as my bow struck the
strings was like nails on a chalkboard. Whatever I had in mind was not happening any time soon.

I could barely read music or tell it apart. I refreshed my memory as much as possible on notes

and their places on the strings. I felt like I had come back to elementary when I barely started,

clueless... but looking forward to what might come next.

After months at refurbishing my knowledge I knew there was nothing left I could teach myself

so I sought out a mentor. I have to give credit where its due to my 7th grade humanities teacher

Mr.Klein as for an entrepreneurship project we visited a local company by the name of take

lessons. I visited the website and after much research on the many options I had, Id found the


We spoke through the website a few times just to get to see at what point I was at. I told her my

story of how I started a long time ago but gave it up, how I had my own instrument and I knew

the basics then the day came for my first lesson. As my mom got in the car and I was in the

passenger seat ready to go, I started to feel shaky. With my instrument and old music books in

hand I was depending on the impression I may give. The house was near where I lived but it felt

like I was on my way to Sinaloa, Mexico by car. The moment we arrived at the home I was

hesitant but knew that was the house. You could hear the dogs barking in the backyard of the

white painted home. I walked towards the small front porch which was covered by a small gate.

It was a nice part of the house but in my current state it felt like I was waiting to pass through

TSA at the airport. I knocked on the gate with a coin I had in my pocket since I wasnt aware of

the ringer outside the gate. I must have knocked to softly for them to hear so I knocked again

with a bit more force this time, I didnt want to seem aggressive or impatient. Suddenly I hear the
locks being turned on the inner door and a stranger Id only seen a picture of online came out

through the door. At first glance I could tell she had a gentle soul, a very kind person. Lucky I

wasnt wrong. Souaad Nuoz is one of the kindest and most welcoming people Ive ever met.

Meeting her that day was a new chapter to my story. Before I forget the mention it, my mother

was there throughout the whole thing which made me a little nervous. I understood why she

needed to be there but although I love my mom very much... it was kind of embarrassing for me,

a fifteen year old being followed around by his mom as if still baby isnt exactly what a fifteen

year old would want. Anyways, once we went inside the house was a bit crowded by furniture,

family pictures everywhere. Some of the furniture seemed antique but fit the house perfectly.

This first lesson was basically a review to see what I truly knew. We went over scales and mostly

talked about what exactly I had been doing. I would speak normally but inside I wanted to get

the lesson over with just to get the embarrassing mess ups and terrible intonation done. In the end

I knew she was going to be a great teacher and that I would learn so much, I had found a new


After blankly staring at this list for the rest of the morning I finally had the energy to sit up and

look around the room. The pale wooden desk cluttered with many papers and figures. The

shelves on it barely closed but overflowed with materials that never came to use. The brown

carpet floor felt soft against the bottom of my feet. I looked a bit to my left to see the mirror over

the sink in the small corner of my room. My hair the equivalent of a hurricane and my face with

a forest of facial hair. The time was 10:30am. I stood up and approached the sink to brush the

terrible morning breath out of my mouth. As I scrub up and down, left and right I just look at
myself and the mirror and think will that dream ever come true? Will I ever be as good as I

want to be? I began to doubt myself as my days sometimes just fly by. I just looked in the

mirror and kept thinking that to myself.

As I was growing up Ive told myself I wanted to be a lot of things. I wanted to be a chef when I

was about six or seven. When I was ten I wanted to be an olympic swimmer. Towards the end of

middle school I wanted to be a psychologist or therapist. For most of middle school I wanted to

be a DJ and a little bit in my freshman year. And currently as you might have guessed I want to

become a violinist. Im just hoping this one isnt a phase like the rest. What Ive wanted to be

may tell you the kind of person I am. I cant really define that for myself. Each phase has had its

story, but this is the one that should continue.

After that May of 2015, Souaad and I met once a week every week for about 30 minutes. It

doesn't seem like much but you can learn a lot in that time. Trust me, I know from experience.

As the lessons continued I had more trust and comfort with her which is something someone

sometimes never finds with a teacher. The difference between elementary and now with Souaad

is that back then we were just a group of 10 - 11 year olds guided by one teacher to play the same

thing synchronized. Here I felt more free. I knew what I wanted to learn and how I wanted to

improve, what my goal was. She knew what I want it from these classes and has helped me get to

all of them, from learning a simple key to learning a song that I have been wanting to play from

the first moment I learned it. Each and every lesson I felt an improvement, week by week. Where

I am now wouldnt have been possible without Souaad and I am very grateful for her teachings
and truly admire the talent she has shared with me. She has pushed me and supported me these

last two years.

In june 2015 Souaad announced to all her students that there would soon be a recital, this would

be my first time performing alone. Just the thought of being up in front of no more than 20

people made tremble and gave me the chills. The date was set for July 10th and for every day it

came closer to the recital the more I would practice. A few minutes became an hour, from an

hour to a few hours. The trembling got worse until the day came. It took place in Souaads living

room. The audience consisted of the parents and relatives of students including my parents of

course. I was only performing one piece as it was a bit longer than everybody elses music. We

just stayed in her house an hour before the performance as students continued to arrive. The hour

came and everything was about to begin. I had prepared this piece for a while now. I was ready

but with a stiffness to my body. After a few performances it was finally my turn. Souaad

introduced me and I walk front and center as the small audience claps, then nothing but silence,

everyones eyes on me. My music was on the stand staring at me along the small crowd. I just

began to play. As my violin emitted sound that stiffness was still there, lucky it wasnt noticeable

in the music. The more I played the loser my body got and by the last part of the piece I just

played freely as if no one was watching. I will admit I messed up a few times but hopefully no

one besides Souaad noticed. As the bow was of the string soon after that last note was played It

went back to clapping and I just smiled back hiding the trembling in my chest. I go back to

where I was and felt every part of my body just loosen as I finally got it over with. A few

students went after me and then the reception started. A few people I had never met in my life
approached me during that time and complemented what i had just done. It gave me this joy but

behind it all I just thought to myself I could do better. My first performance was a success but

it was the first of many.

After brushing my teeth I went to the living room which was quiet and empty, a rarity in this

apartment. My mom had left for the gym and would be back by the afternoon and my brother,

like a bear during hibernation, looked like he wasnt waking up anytime soon. I had the place to

myself and what did i do? I grabbed my violin and plucked the strings to mimic the melodies of

the many songs Id memorized so far. There wasn't much to do as later today Id be heading out

so after some nostalgia of music I got ready to leave.

Around october 2015 I was at one of my many classes with Souaad just going over some music

theory and practicing a piece by the name of loves sorrow, to some it sounded pretty but in my

case it told a story as most music does. Towards the end of our now 45 minute session she

mentioned something interesting to me. Are you interested in orchestral performance? Souaad

asked casually. I was with the elementary orchestra but It's something I would like to try I said

with some doubt behind my words. She then told me about ECYS or the East County Youth

Symphony. They were holding auditions for their next semester in January. I told her Id give it

some thought. She sent me the information and I just put it in the back of my head for a few

weeks. Later on she mentioned it again, not insisting but just as a reminder. I told her I still

wasnt sure. I left our lesson that day with the through front and center. The stage that my brain
had built had the audition in the spotlight. Ive never auditioned in my life. I get nervous enough

just playing in front of others who aren't Souaad. After some deep thought for the next couple of

days I had my final thought there is always a first time for everything. That fall afternoon I

filled out the online sign up sheet and just awaited for a response. Souaad and I prepared and

practice a few pieces to use for the audition from then to the january deadline, I was just excited

for what was to come.I thought it might be a few days for the symphony to get back to me. It was

much more than that. Weeks went by and no response. I emailed and called and nothing. Maybe

they saw my information and thought I wasnt good enough.

It was January 28 2016 and I was now 16 years old. My birthday had just passed a week ago and

still no response. I checked my email with little to no hope of a response that day, but It didnt

hurt to look. I scrolled after a few promotions from gamestop or amazon to suddenly find a

strange email from someone by the name of Alexandra Keegan. I read...

Dear Samuel and family,

We received your online audition application. Thank you for your interest in East County Youth

Symphony.Your audition is scheduled for Saturday, January 30, 2016 at 9:30am Location:

Cuyamaca College, Building B, Room B-301, 900 Rancho San Diego Pkwy, El Cajon

Dress Code: casual

Arrival time: 15 min before scheduled time.

Reply if you have any question or need to cancel/reschedule.

We look forward to seeing you.



Alexandra Keegan

Executive Director

East County Youth Symphony

As soon as I read this a rush of joy had hit me. I showed my mom and called Souaad to let

them all know this was really happening. I re read the email and realized something. It said the

audition was on January 30th, but it was the 28th. I had only two days to prepare. We moved our

lesson to the next day to prepare and she even gave me extra time to prepare with her. Those two

days flew by although I wished they hadnt. I needed more time, this could be a step up or a step

down. I feared the worst.

That morning on the 30th I woke up very early and my parents drove me all the way up to

cuyamaca college. I had that feeling again, that feeling of time stopping and thinking of all

possible outcomes. The whole ride there I just looked out the window to see all of these cars

driving up north. You would see different drivers with different expressions, I wondered if they

had my same feeling but for different reasons. When we finally arrived I wasnt sure where to go

until I followed the signs. It was a very open space between the car and the actual campus. I ran

to the first stairs I saw that said B-301 3rd floor. I ran the stairs with my music and instrument

in hand. The many flights of stairs exhausted the air in my lungs so when I made it to the top I

was gasping for air, then I saw the room door. I hesitated for a little bit. Who knew what was

past that door. A room full of people for the same reason Im there, or maybe it's the wrong

room. I take a deep breath and walk past the door. It was wide carpet floored classroom. Clearly

a music room as the board had prelabeled music staffs and the room was big enough to fit a

small orchestra, yet it was empty. A few chairs here and there and only two other people besides

me. A very tall white kid, about 17 or 18 was sitting in the middle of the room playing his violin,
probably going over his music for his audition. His eyes very focused on his music but his

posture was completely off, but I don't blame him. He was too tall to his chair so he was almost

in a fetal position trying to sit normally. In the other end of the room was a little girl with her

mom. Telling from her age she was probably auditioning for something more basic that ECYS

offered. I arrived on time, a little bit early maybe. I sat by the entrance tuning my violin waiting

for whoever was in charge to call me in. The anticipation was killing. My parents caught up to

me and scared me, I was lost in thought. After a few minutes a redheaded woman came out from

a back door in the corner of the room. She called my name with a heavy russian accent. I

smirked a little but deep inside I shook. My music in hand with my instrument at my side out of

its case, I followed her to the other room. It was much smaller than the last space we were in,

like a conference room. She sat on a chair around the long table. In front her was you typical

black metal stand. I placed my music down as she said play whenever youre ready. Her heavy

accent still made me laugh inside, it helped enlighten the situation. I placed the rest to my

shoulder and my bow in hand, In front of me was the music I had been playing over and over

again for the last few days. It felt like I might not even need the music. I began to play and

everything seemed fine until five seconds in she said ok that's enough. I froze, Another layer

of ice covered my body. What had I done wrong? Did I mess up? Did I sound bad, What

happened??? All these thoughts rushed my brain like a speeding car. Is it harder for you when

you switch to the E string? she asked me after stopping me. Its not much of a struggle for me

but I guess there is some tension I replied innocently. She then showed me a trick with your

elbow which made it more comfortable. Then she commented on how teachers nowadays dont

teach that anymore although the should. Im sure Souaad had mentioned it once but Instead of
saying anything I just agreed. Well that's it She said with a high pitch to her voice. Im going

to put you with the advanced division. Id signed up for the symphony orchestra which was

below the advanced division. I was in shock from the news I had just been given but with a big

smile across my face. We left the room and went back to the larger empty room. My parents

waiting to see what happened. The redheaded woman, who was indeed Alexandra Keegan, told

my parents all they needed to know, where I had been placed, the music Id be playing, where

wed have rehearsal and so on. I wasnt paying attention. I was just roaming my own mind

thinking Im in an orchestra.

A couple days later I had my first rehearsal. Souaad went with me to see what we might need to

work on. It was a strange system but since spring is their longest semester we had our rehearsals

split by sections of the orchestra, I was violin 2. The music at first was intimidating but once

explained was more simplistic. Clearly there was a lot of work to be done. After a few rehearsals

of just violin 2 we brought everyone together. The violins, violas, cellos, a double bass and a few

brass instruments. I was mostly intrigued by the 1 section. The people who had that part were

much better than me, they played beautifully although the key of the music was very heavy and

dramatic. It was very astonishing. The problem was that they were younger than me. I was the

high schooler freshman while these 7th and 8th graders were playing as if it were their whole

life. Why was I not violin 1? It made me think of the past, how I just brushed this off. It made me

regret the three years wasted on a fantasy of being a djay and electronic music being my life. If I

would have continued then I would be better, much better.