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Literacy Narrative

Get Back Up!

Music has become a part of our being, without which, we can no longer live. Music is addictive. Whether I held myself back in the melodic harmony of the band or held my sound back on a high note, I always sold myself, and my abilities short. Through ten years of building, harmonizing, and melodic playing, I’ve learned to extend myself in metaphysical ways that bend the mind and have at times defined the limits of what I thought I was capable of achieving in my life. I have learned my trombone inside and out, helping me learn the value of dedication and believing in myself to succeed. Music is a forever progressing art form, yet I can always consider myself a student of the industry who must learn from the past to be stronger. 

First time ever playing a trombone, 2012

In fifth grade, I set myself on a path. I didn’t know it yet, but by taking on the challenges an instrument provided, my future would be shaped in a professional manner. When all fifth graders were asked to pick instruments, many picked based on personal preference or whatever their friends picked, regardless of how popular the instrument was. Yet, I chose the trombone solely because everyone else was afraid of its mystery – an instrument with no identifying keys but a slide that relied solely on human placement and personal interpretation.

“Why would you play an instrument that doesn’t have any keys?” “Can you even reach that far?” “How will you learn to practice?” None of these questions had answers, yet I continued to visualize my success as I vowed to answer them. From then on, I became an obedient music student, which continues to this day. Clinging to my music skill and creating opportunities to play for myself allowed me to continue my obedience of the musical arts. In middle school, I joined concert band, jazz band, and brass ensemble. At an early age, surrounding myself with people of the same curiosity towards music allowed me to grow and foster my love for music within the jazz community, which has helped me tenfold. Being in college has allowed me to extend my musical style linguistically.

Marching in fourth of July parade, 2016

Regardless of age, people believing in anything you do leads to a boost in confidence. When I let the fear of messing up leave my body, or the sweat leave my hands, I perform with ease. When I began playing music initially, my family wasn’t encouraging as they felt I was wasting my time and would set myself on a career path that was inefficient for life and for overall “Success.” However, in seventh grade, after months of preparation for my first Jazz concert, I was given my first solo in a jazz song called “Jamming with Charlie,” written and composed by Bruce Pearson. Rising my trombone above my stand, I felt my gut drop as my masterpiece was to be judged by hundreds of people, including my father. The constant disbelief of my father was a motivation to pursue my ability further and fight until he believed I could succeed. Yet, as the notes began to flow from squawks and scratches to long progressions, the style of Jazz began to emerge within. These unfamiliar sounds slowly became accustomed to my ear as playing this piece opened my creativity to new heights.

Although music is a creative art, it also adheres to a strict set of “rules” that are used to shape the modern forms of Jazz to match the past. In high school, I competed in the CMEA North–Bay Area All Stars Jazz Band – a competitive Jazz group that brought thousands of kids to audition to compete on a National Stage. Months of rehearsing in the practice room struggling with audition music brewed more fear from within that I needed to overcome. Before our final performance at the Santa Cruz Jazz Festival in 2020, our group director kept reminding me of previous mistakes I had made earlier in the week on our hardest song, “Black Orpheus”, originally written by Luiz Bonfa and popularized by Paul Desmond. Minutes before going on stage, a lump sat in my throat as if I had never practiced or worked to earn this moment. Fear. Minutes before performing on the highest stage in front of 4,000 people the squeaks of fear and sweat in my palms returned as the tune of my director’s voice ringed in my head. Seconds before walking on stage, my sweat reached my collar as my director’s criticisms haunted my brain, seeping doubt into my mind. 

San Marin High School Jazz Review Concert, 2022

As I stood up and began playing my solo, my doubt let itself be known to the band as I played minor chord progressions instead of major chords, allowing my sound to stick out in the harmonic balance of the band. Due to the no mercy, cutthroat nature of the band and the punishment of mistakes, I was dropped from the band as a whole. The rejection crushed my spirit and my will to play music, as my success was riding on one moment. Being turned away allowed me to step out of my obsessive drive for perfection and realize that if I wanted to thrive in a professional world, I would need to develop my integrity in the face of adversity and trust the process. I am reminded of the value of failure as it allows me to strengthen my will. 

As I went through my annotations, I drafted a reflection on the positives and negatives of my essay that I felt I still could improve.

As I continued to develop my playing skills in high school, I began to see my music skills and my life in a different light. The limits of my competitive success had bothered me, making me feel that my success would never be outdone by my fear of failure. However, I gained the knowledge and self respect to find where my true passion lies on a professional level. As a musician, I have gained further trust in the process of repetition and persistence to foster a successful future. As my father used to say, “Regardless of what profession you choose to seek, don’t sit and be unhappy,” with the skills you possess. As I continue to play music in college, I continue to bring my courage and relentlessness to trust the process and never let falling down keep me from getting back up. 


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