This year, Asheville Music School ran it's first school-wide essay contest. The prompt was "How has music changed my life"
Out of dozens of entrants, my piano student, Harmony Redford was announced the winner! She was awarded $100, delivered her essay as a speech during a fundraising event, and her essay went out in a school-wide annual campaign letter. Read her story about how music and our lessons have shaped her life:
Gabrielle and Harmony at the winter recital, where Harmony debuted her original song, "Just Thoughts"
"How Music Has Changed My Life"
When I was 11 years old, I was given a second hand keyboard and began taking piano lessons with Gabrielle Tee. At that age, I only listened to whatever was on the radio or what my parents put on at our house, and I couldn’t name more than two musicians that I liked. But I enjoyed the challenge of playing piano and spent hours practicing for my weekly lessons, so a few months later when Gabrielle told me about the upcoming recital, I decided to perform. It was probably the most terrifying thing I had ever done, but it felt so good to get up in front of people and share what I had been working on for weeks. At that same performance, I saw the ensembles perform for the first time, and I was intrigued. I didn’t even know that the school had groups like this but I wanted to give it a try, so at my next lesson I asked Gabrielle if I could join. It is true that being in an ensemble helped me learn to collaborate, and performing with the group increased my confidence, but more than that I was starting to understand music in a new way.
I remember one song in particular that they played; “Tear in my Heart” by Twenty One Pilots. I liked the song but I didn’t think much of it until a few months later when I was invited to see them live in concert. That concert changed my life and dramatically increased my love for music. Seeing how their music could bring together all these different people to share in an experience was unbelievable. I went home and immediately started learning how to play their songs on my piano, and just to imagine that I could come close to their level of musicality and skill pushed me forward. I became so obsessed with the band that my parents bought me a pair of drumsticks that had the drummer’s signature on them, and I had a random thought; I wanted to play the drums. Gabrielle humored me and scheduled a lesson. She told me that I wouldn’t need a drum kit. Since I was just beginning I could practice on a pile of books or some pillows for now. The first song she gave me was “Tear in my Heart” because she knew how much I loved it. She demonstrated how to play and then let me try. I sat down and played the whole song straight through on the first try. After the lesson, she told my mom “sorry, but you’re gonna have to buy her a drum set. She's a drummer.”
A few weeks later Gabrielle offered me the position of drummer in the high school ensemble Vinyl Crossroads. I had looked up to the girls in Vinyl Crossroads since I had joined the ensemble program, so getting a chance to play with them was unbelievable. It’s been more than year now and I’ve learned so much from them because they are all such talented and creative
About a month ago, we got an opportunity to play a show bigger than any we’ve ever had. We got to open for Sarah McLachlan at the Cellular Center. They told us beforehand that we couldn’t play covers like we usually do. Instead, it had to be a set of all originals. So everyone who had an original song written brought it in at band practice, and we all got to work together on writing our parts and giving feedback to each other. It was a really powerful experience because it gave me a chance not only to write some original music, but to play it in front of other musicians my age and hear their thoughts. It was the most significant performance and life-changing musical experience I’ve ever had. We had our own dressing room, there was a whole team of people sound checking us, and there was actual security between us and the audience. The performance was so much fun, and it was such an honor to play for such an awesome crowd, opening for an amazingly talented musician on a stage that literal legends have performed on. I can’t even adequately put into words how it felt to play that show, but the best way I can describe it is inspiring.
Music has changed my life in so many ways. It raised my confidence to a new level, it introduced me to some of my best friends and my amazingly talented and supportive mentor Gabrielle Tee, it gave me a way to deal with the biggest struggles in my life and a way to express everything I’m feeling, but most of all it’s given me a goal in life, something to motivate me. I want to play music for the rest of my life, and I want to continue to learn new instruments and new musical skills and knowledge, but I strive for even more than that. I want to make a difference with my music. I don’t want to be a successful musician for the fame but for the chance to inspire the people around me and make a positive change in the world. I believe that I can take my love for music, which started as extracurricular activity and turn it into a life. Everything I have learned, everything I’ve experienced, and everything I’ve yet to learn, is how music has and will continue to change my life.