Kristen: A Mildly Put Together Musical Autobiography

Every moment I spent as a wander-lusting child inched my identity closer and closer towards who I am today. To this exact second, the identity I embrace is evolving. The memories I hold closest to my heart are each linked by two denominators: my education and music. My elementary school days, the day in middle school I first saw a trumpet, my freshman year of high school band, the day I first performed a solo – each of these experiences mold the vision of my future, the future I am presently unfolding. The recollection of my past reveals why I truly want to become a music educator. Music is the ultimate, never-ending freedom in my life and I want to ignite this passion in as many other people as I possibly can.
Rewinding the year to 2009: I was twelve years old and in the seventh grade. My mom, an immigrant from South Korea who speaks broken English and makes an incredible kimchi soup, wanted me to take piano lessons. My dad, a white American born and raised in Louisiana, praised over and over, “It’s the gateway instrument, bug!” I was in the kitchen scared beyond belief that I would suddenly learn how to play an instrument. Simply, I was a music virgin. I did not know what a quarter note was. I did not know that the letter “C” was also a pitch, and not the baseball kind. In spite of my fears, I agreed to learn the piano. Until I entered college, I never knew how much this decision affected me.
Kathy Miller, my piano instructor, gathered the kindling for my love of music. She showed me the beauty of music with her playing and instilled the ideal that I could also be a great pianist if I practiced hard enough. For the next three years, my musical knowledge and piano skills grew exponentially. The skills I learned from Kathy have stuck with me through to this exact day. I learned music theory that was never taught in my high school. I could read more difficult music than my peers. I made district and state bands and I ratings on solos and ensemble performances. I passed my college’s School of Music audition. I opened the door to another fountain of knowledge.
The same year I picked up piano I discovered the trumpet, my primary instrument. I wanted to join the middle school band, directed by a current colleague’s father, Todd Walker. Todd gathered an assembly and played the famous military bugle call, “Reveille”. Already smitten with the idea of making loud noises on a daily basis, I began the instrument selection process a week later. I peeped, whistled, and squeaked on different contraptions until I came to a forked road. Trumpet or flute? I thought, “What is louder and cooler and not many girls play?” I was born to be a trumpet player. From that time on, I unknowingly feel deeper and deeper into a pit of passion. Each of my closest friends I met in band. Together, we slowly developed a craft and developed memories not many other children currently have the opportunity to experience. 
Fast forward three years from 2009, I was a soon-to-be-senior in high school. It was summer and I won my school’s scholarship to go to Music For All’s Summer Symposium in Muncie, Indiana. Taking the jazz track, I met a plethora incredible musicians who taught me humility. Though the same age, these musicians were mountains above my skill level. I was a beginner at jazz but I realized that I was the only person holding myself back. Today, I keep a few mantras from the jazz track director that year, famous trumpeter Scott Belck: “Don’t apologize. […] Music is the ultimate meritocracy.” Even though my school did not have a gracious amount of musical resources, I could have easily accessed anything I wanted on the internet to learn more. Belck, through example, taught me there is an infinitesimal amount of wealth to discover in music.
As a music educator, I want my students to understand that in this age of information, they can pursue any passion in the world to almost any degree. School resources, especially those dedicated to fine arts, are dwindling as budgets have decreased. Circumstance does not hinder growth if opportunity is always available. “Don’t apologize” for one’s own playing if you have had the opportunity to improve at your fingertips. Use humility to fuel the fire.
The most important moment in a child or teenager’s life is the moment they first light a passion, no matter how small the flame flickers. That is why I have stressed the beginning of my music career over other times.

In middle school and high school, I knew I loved music. My friends and I bonded through the hours we spent in the music building rehearsing. I loved learning a subject completely new from English, Earth science, and the worst yet, algebra.

Music broke the monotony of my school life and gave me a creative outlet.

Music taught me that practice really does make perfect.

Music taught me that you have to listen to others to create beauty.

Music taught me that sometimes you have to soar solo above the rest.

Without music, I would be nowhere.

With music, I can bring these principles of life to children and help lead them to success.

“Music is the ultimate meritocracy.”

Scott Belck, 2014

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