Andrea has been playing violin with the Hartford All-City Youth Orchestra since its inception in 2014. She has performed all over the city with HACYO, and continues to both play and mentor younger students. Andrea also volunteers with Charter Oak Cultural Center's music camps for kids during the summer, helping to lead them in violin and as a mentor. HACYO is directed by Dylan Lomangano.
Dylan Lomangano: What type of music do you play? When did you start to play/study this type of music?
Andrea Rodriguez: I play classical violin at Charter Oak. I started playing violin when I was ten years old.
Dylan: What makes you happiest about playing music? What’s your favorite part and why?
Andrea: Playing music makes me happy. My favorite thing about it is that I’m able to put my heart and emotions into music which is sometimes hard to do with words.
Dylan: What are the most challenging parts of your program and playing this instrument? How do you try and overcome these challenges?
Andrea: I think proper form can sometimes be challenging. I try to imagine that I’m holding a small animal so I’m more careful with the instrument.
Dylan: What are your short and long-term goals? How do you feel that your participation will help you achieve these goals?
Andrea: My short-term goals are properly planning and strategizing for the future. Making sure I’m doing everything I can to prepare myself to accomplish my long-term goals. Long-term, I want to maintain and grow confidence in myself and in my talents.
Dylan: How has your involvement with the program impacted your life? How has it changed you? What would you tell other students who are looking to study this instrument?
Andrea: I have introduced friends to the HACYO program which is cool. I have also been able to reinforce my understanding of the nuances of violin and fuel my passion for music.
Dylan: What are you musical, education, and career plans for the future? Will you continue playing music? What do you want to be when you grow up?
Andrea: I want to double major in music and liberal arts in college. I plan to always keep music as a part of my life. I want to be successful first and foremost to myself.
Nigel Bello can remember the day that music changed his life. It was Christmas morning and he was 6 years old. On that day, his father gave him his first trombone.
A student at International Magnet School of Global Citizenship in Hartford, Connecticut, Nigel became obsessed with music, eventually participating in the SpreadMusicNow-sponsored Funky Dawgz Brass Band Jazz Camp, itself a product of the Charter Oaks Cultural Center, a unique nonprofit that provides free classes in the arts to underserved Hartford youth.
With his stint at Jazz Camp completed, Nigel is continuing his music education at home. He receives training from his father along with several notable local musicians, all with Master’s degrees in music. He’s been learning all of the techniques of an advanced student, including breathing, posture, and music theory. He’s even been dabbling in piano to perfect his musical prowess.
He’s already playing with his dad at local gigs without a hint of stage fright – an impressive feat – considering that Nigel is all of 9 years old.
As a jazz trombone student, Nigel gets to show off his love of improvisation: “I love playing music in groups in my own style,” he says. “My plans are to keep studying and practicing so that one day I can play with [leading trombone improviser] Steve Davis.”
Nigel’s participation in the Funky Dawgz Jazz Camp has influenced his musical progress significantly, in turn leading to more confidence in his skills. “I feel like I’m a better musician now… I was always insecure about my soloing.” Now, Nigel’s favorite part of playing music is during solos, “because that’s when you let all your stress and happiness come out through your music and you can be melodic and be yourself.”
As for his future, Nigel remains passionate, “I want to keep playing trombone no matter what job I get. I want to make my parents proud and bring them to tears of joy with my music.”
Nigel’s enthusiasm is a testament to music education. If he’s this excited about his life and musical direction at age 9, imagine where he’ll be at 19?
Music education transforms lives, and 15-year old Denasha Upchurch is proof. With support from SpreadMusicNow, Denasha has been able to study violin and chamber music at New Haven, Connecticut-based Music Haven.
To hear her tell it, Denasha's music studies have made all the difference in her young life. "Mastering the violin is so difficult, so I feel like if I can make progress on the violin, I can pretty much tackle anything. This music is challenging, and through it, I'm learning patience, determination, confidence and an openness to try new things."
Structured, individualized music education plays a critical role in helping children establish pathways to college, career and life. Students like Denasha – who admits that if it wasn't for Music Haven, would be leading a "completely different life" – are able to tap into the myriad of benefits derived from learning music, and experience the pride and increased self-esteem that comes from achievement.
"I love being able to share my music with others, particularly my family. It makes me happy when I see my mom and grandma so proud when I perform."
Upon graduating, Denasha plans to go on to college and study child psychology or speech pathology, but of course, she won't let go of her passion for music, and is planning to continue playing violin "in college and beyond."
Dayii Elfayous began her exploration of music when she was ten years old, while learning to play classical violin. Now, four years later, Dayii’s passion for music has grown, and she builds this love of music playing the violin at Central Magnet High School in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Through a grant from SpreadMusicNow, Dayii is able to continue her violin lessons from the KEYS program in Bridgeport, Connecticut. KEYS, and many other programs supported by SpreadMusicNow, empowers students like Dayii to flourish through music education and learn lessons that will assist her in all walks of life.
SpreadMusicNow understands that music education can help carve a path to success for a young student. It affects all aspects of their lives, and Dayii is proof, expressing that music has helped her develop new relationships. “What makes me happy about playing music is meeting so many other people.”
She goes on to say, “In South Sudan, where my parents are from, music is used to bring people together. That is what music does for me now – it brings me together with other people.”
Learning to play the violin can be difficult, and Dayii is proud to share that this has helped her develop patience. Now, playing relaxes her.
An aspiring young artist, Dayii has many plans for the future. She believes that in order to develop as a violinist, she must continue to play classical music, but she’d like to practice jazz violin as well. When she attends college one day, Dayii hopes to major in music, and explore the possibility of composing music for motion pictures.