From the New World

Indicate a person who’s had an influence on you and describe that influence.

A rush of patriotic horns and brasses bellowed with fire and passion. I closed my eyes and I envisioned Dvorak at the forefront of the ship as the land drifted out of sight, the vessel carrying him to America. From the New World set me with a journey of my own, through the vibrant pulsation of staccato beats and the delicate accarezzévole timbre.

Synchronizing with the waves of the water, I moved side by side as I brushed my hands over the battered ship. As we reached closer, the horns blared to signal our arrival in America. Startled, I awoke from the daydream and realized I was searching for an instrument to call my own. I was mesmerized by the mahogany-varnished violin in my hands, by its deep scars, which told of a tumultuous life reaching back into the 19th century.

As I stared at this violin, I remembered when music first captivated me. It was at a Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra concert where my chaotic journey began, when I was sitting in the very last balcony seat: this ticket was what my family could afford at the time. I was restless and distracted by everything around me, but when the somber B flat melody of Adagio for Strings echoed, I was pulled into an emotional whirlwind. The long, flowing melodic line from the first violins made me focus on the heartfelt undulations that built to a cathartic peak before melting into a serene resolution. I was only twelve then, but listening to this song made me more mature, more aware of humanity, and more in touch with my emotions. There was something about the melancholic weeping of the strings that drew me to the instrument. Because of this concert, I began to save up for a violin.

A voice broke through the calm ambiance: “play something.” It was the Luthier, a maker of stringed instruments. Embarrassed, I explained that I had not yet learned to play because my family could not afford lessons. The Luthier gave me a sympathetic nod and took out a piece of paper, wrote the name of a scholarship program for novice musicians, and assured me he’d call them for me. On the back of the note, he jotted a request for me to one day return and play for him. A month later, I auditioned and was fortunate to be admitted in the program.

Although I still face economic obstacles in my pursuit of classical music, practicing gives me access to the same resources that students with greater economic privileges also enjoy. Since then, I have practiced countless hours to improve, because music is a language I want to better understand. The serendipitous encounter with the Luthier led me to find my deep affection for music and passion for composing. Now, I want to learn more about the history of music. I want to learn how to play the intense viola and the overpowering bass. I want to caress the strings, pulling strenuously to make a sound that will swell into a wave of music. Most of all, I want to get swept away by all the melodies and harmonies.

Four years later, I returned to the store and revisited the Luthier. I played him From the New World by Dvorak with an emphatic resonance. After my performance, I told him how he had opened up a new world of classical music for me. It was because of him that my family did not have to worry about the financial aspects of me living out my dream. The music theory classes I had been taking, the performing arts school I had been accepted into and where I was awarded first chair, were all a result of his everyday kindness.

For that—I hugged him and said “Thank you.”

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