"When I discovered [music], it was just a whole different world. It instilled this dedication, passion, discipline, that transferred over to my academics."
"My father would always tell me, and my mom too always tell me, you can't get far in life without a college degree in this country. And they told me why they came here. Immigrant households value education over anything else. They sacrificed their lives basically, to provide something better for their children. They told me, look at me. My dad works in a factory, clean offices at night, and my mother has also cleaned offices, she works as a janitor. And I would help him, and I was like I hate this, I hate this, and they would tell me, see look you don't wanna be doing this, it's not bad work. But you have the opportunity to do something else, something different, to go beyond what we have here.
Music is something that's been a part of our family for generations. And it's interesting because we always had a lot of music playing around our house, different music. We had music from Cuba, from Latin America from Europe, and I never paid attention to it.
And I remember specifically the moment when I did discover music. My dad was in our old apartment. It was a one bedroom apartment, and my dad was in the closet. That's where his studio was. So my dad always had a studio in there. He had a couple pianos in there, his guitars were hanging on the wall.
I remember one time, I heard my dad playing a solo, and he was practicing cuz he had band rehearsal that weekend. And my parents, as a hobby and as a part time job, they played in a band. So they played Cumbia, Salsa, Merengue and all that stuff. I remember when he played it, I heard, the lead, and it just struck me, just felt like something. I don't know you feel like an awakening. For some reason, I was shocked that my own father could play guitar, when I had seen him play guitar all these years, and I'm like, but I never seen you play that kinda that way. And I told my dad, I wanna play like that. That's really cool.
At that point he's like, here, here's a guitar. And he gave me my first exercise. And after that point, it was just, that was it. I just wanted to do music. That's all I want to do."
"And in middle school, I performed very poorly. Well, I didn't care about grades. I didn't do homework as much, because in middle school, I always thought I was terrible at school. I remember this specific instance, we were taking a, California standard exam. It was like a 30 question section, only did like the first four questions, and I gave up. The teacher came around and she said, I guess I'll see you working at McDonald's in a couple of years. And it stuck out to me, because you didn't expect the teacher to sort of tell you that and nothing against McDonald's, McDonald's is great. Right?
But when I came to realize that she was basically telling me, you gave up on yourself, so that's it, it's over, like, and I never experienced that before. So, from that point, I was like, well, I'm just a terrible student. The teacher told me, so she knows more than I do. So obviously, I'm not gonna perform well ever in my life, and I was hanging out with the wrong crowd. And I know it's a cliche, but it was true. So they didn't value school. They did a lot of things that they shouldn't have done."
"I started playing guitar. My parents introduced me to Latin percussion, so I played congas timbales in their band. My parents would tell me, if you want to play with us on a weekend, let's finish your homework. So that was the rule we had, cuz I got to stay up late, Friday nights, Saturday nights, playing with them at different venues, and that was exciting for me. So I was like, alright, I'll finish my homework, fine, I'll finish my homework, so that was kinda the deal. And it was a way for me to also get off of the streets, because I was always spending time outside, with friends doing things that were not productive. And so it was a way for me to get connected with my family with my culture.
And I just when I discovered it, was just a whole different world. It instilled this dedication, passion, discipline, that transferred over to my academics. I found out that, actually, I love school. I love learning about math, English, literature, whatever it was, I just love learning. And I think it was combined with music, it just clicked. And all of that sort of came together. UC Berkeley accepted me, UC Santa Barbara, UC Irvine, UCLA and I was sort of shocked by how easy it was. It was easy to dream big, right? And dreaming big is something that I did, my friends did, who we don't know what we were doing. We didn't know that we could pursue our dreams. We were sort of limited. We're not limited. The world is out there."
Up Next: Korey, Houston, TX
Korey's parents are her biggest supporters, but now that it's time for college, she's not sure she's ready to leave them.
"Once you graduate, you have to do something with your life... you don't know what you're gonna do. But...you put in all this work, and it's finally paid off. So it's bittersweet."
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