Aila, San Jose, California

“It’s always kind of not-so-fun when I first start playing a piece because you look at the piece and you think, ‘This is really hard and will take a lot of work.’ But then after I kept playing, it felt so good to be able to finish a piece. It helped me realize that if you keep working for something, keep practicing, then you’ll keep getting better and it’s really fun now. 

I like to play Chopin, and I like classical pieces because they have so much meaning. I like playing with emotion; it’s easy for me to show how I feel about the piece and show the emotion while I play. Because when you play piano, it’s not just about pushing keys on the piano, you have to tell a story, like ‘Life isn’t easy, and you just have to keep going.’

“River Flows in You” is a very emotional song, and I think everyone thinks of something different for that song. Everybody’s life has ups and downs. I went through a very tough time in seventh grade, so I think of all the things that happen then and what I learned about it. A lot of the things are things that I don’t understand. I had trouble finding myself, and I tried to be a person that inside I knew I wasn’t just to please people or be someone that people would like. But since I wasn’t being myself, that caused problems. I didn’t know why I was here or what I was doing. I’m glad it happened when I was young because it was definitely super hard, but it taught me so much.

I’m an emotional person — I’m not super sad or super happy, but I have a lot of feelings and I listen to songs that have a lot of feelings. When I play my music, I also have a lot of emotion. I know that a lot of the writers also write about their lives and what has happened to them, so when I listen to the songs that they have written, it makes me feel more supported because I know that I’m not alone. 

I created my YouTube channel to post my music. I’ve posted about three posts, since I only started about three months ago. I can be a perfectionist, so when I tape myself on the piano, I can be super critical. I’ve literally taken five hours to tape one piece. But it gives me some motivation because when I look back in the future, I want to see growth, and I want to see myself playing those songs. I want to see how I played then and how I was feeling because a lot of the songs that I pick reflect what is going on. Right now, I’m working on a summer project where I will tell a story with the piece that I play and draw pictures. It’s about everything that’s going on right now with COVID-19, BLM, and all the things that happened in 2020. We have to stick together, and we will get through this. I want to be original and put my own special touch on the message.

I took so long to find a certain sport, but my first instrument was piano and I’ve kept with it and I’ve loved it and I’ve never wanted to quit. I was really young for my first piano lesson, so I wasn’t very serious about it. My mom stopped sending me to lessons, and she taught me herself with my other friend. I’m so thankful to my mom because she had so much patience with us. I took lessons with my mom for about one year until she sent me to a more professional piano teacher because my mom didn’t think that she was skilled enough to teach me how to play better. 

In the future, I’m definitely not going to be a concert pianist or piano teacher for a living, but music is always going to be a super important part of my life. I’d love to volunteer to teach kids how to play, too. I see myself growing and maybe learning new instruments like the harp or the guitar.”

— Aila, San Jose, California

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