Performing the Heart

Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

The piano groaned in dismay as my fingers struck the wrong chords. My wrists were stiff, my shoulders hunched forward, and my gaze was expressionless—but I continued to play, unconcerned, as this broken Chopin spiraled downward into a crumbling mess.As I landed the last dissonant chord with an ironic flair, I looked at my mom expectantly. She sat at the dining room table, listening to me practice with her fingers curled around a coffee cup, a perturbed grimace expressing exactly how she felt about my performance.“I really hate piano,” I explained, as if it really needed to be said.I had been telling her this for months: I was not a piano player. There was too much technicality in this lifeless instrument; not enough smoothnessin which I could express myself. It was simply impossible for my wild mind to sit in one spot for hours like this, staring at nothing but black and white, black and white, black and white all day.“Violin!” she exclaimed suddenly. She slammed down her cup. “Michelle, don’t you want to try violin?”I blinked at her. Violin? It did sound oddly appealing: Violin. Violin. Violin…A week later, I stepped off the school bus into the cool November weather. My mother stood waiting for me, car keys in hand.“Today,” she declared, “is your first violin lesson. We’re going to your new teacher’s house to meet her!”It was all too sudden and unexpected. The car was suddenly too hot, the seats too hard; and as I sat, unnaturally still, each bump in the road launched a new fear into my head. But at the same time, there was an eagerness I’d never experienced before—foreign, in the most delightful way.We finally pulled up to a small home painted warm brown and surrounded by thick woods. The front door greeted me with a loud, squeaky creak, and the house smelled of pine needles and was filled with color—not black and white, not black and white.She stood inside, waiting with a smile. It thrilled me that she looked just as excited as I felt. “Hello,” she said. “I’m Barbara.”I could hardly sit still. It was all so much to take in—the worn, colorful rug that filled the whole room, the huge window that invited the sunlight in to warm the chairs, the bookshelf filled with hundreds of music sheets and books. Would I someday know how to play all of those pieces?“Do you have any questions, Michelle?” Barbara asked me then. “Anything you’re wondering?”I smiled. “Could you… play for me?”I still remember that beautiful sound, filling up the small room—warming my ears and my skin and reverberating through my body, the notes dancing and twirling around themselves in the air before fading away. My fingers itched to try.On the car ride home, I began imagining a future Michelle, performing on a big stage for thousands of wildly applauding people. I imagined my mom and dad and sister and Barbara, watching me proudly from the front row.I still have that image in mind every time I pick up my violin, feeling the steel strings vibrating under my fingers—but what I truly learned from violin is not the notes, but the realization of the power of my own passion. I fell in love with violin because I wanted to do it, and because it was who I was; because it was where my zeal had found a home. Every time I interrogate a witness at a Mock Trial tournament; every time I smash a tennis ball into my opponent’s court; every time I pick up a pen and write a research paper, I imagine what this utter love can do, and how far it can take me.I imagine, take a deep breath, and perform my heart.

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