As we wrap up March, or otherwise known as " Music In Our Schools" Month, I think about all of the kids impacted by our Music Unites programs throughout the city over the past five years, and how we've really created a family of like-minded, creative and talented kids who use Music Unites as the vehicle to express themselves and enjoy music at its most organic form.
Tequilla White, an alumni member of the Music Unites Youth Choir, explained that the choir was where she felt alive and relaxed -- whatever else was happening in her life during that time, didn't really matter when all the choir kids got together and spent two hours singing. Sometimes life throws you lemons, and when that happens, I personally look towards Music Unites and the magic in all of us, turn up the volume and listen to the music. I can feel it in the room when Dino Zonic conducts the Music Unites Centennial High School Orchestra here in Los Angeles, and it was felt when Nick Lachey hosted the most recent Music-Versity workshop at Viacom's offices in New York City with a panel of some of the top music executives in the industry -- all encouraging our kids to never give in to the word "no" when it comes to achieving one's dreams and to always keep trying even when the going gets rough.
Tequilla, currently a third-year student at Queens College, joined the Music Unites Youth Choir her junior year of high school and was able to watch as the choir grew throughout the years. Now interning with the Music Unites team, she is able to see her journey come full circle as she helps promote the Music Unites mission -- spreading the love of music to kids, who, just like her, need an outlet to express their creativity.
When asked what being a member of the choir has done for her, Tequilla told me that being in the youth choir really made her understand what it was like to be a team player. "I had been a part of many choirs in high school, but I already knew the fellow students so I was more comfortable," Tequilla recalled. "With the Music Unites Youth Choir, I had to learn to interact with new people with different personalities, from all over. Ultimately, I really felt like we were one big family. Every time we came in on Monday evenings, we would hug and laugh like we hadn't seen each other in so long even though it had only been a week."
I'm always thinking about what music means to me (after all, I live, breathe and dream all things music every single day and night of my life) but the tables turned and I asked Tequilla what music means to her. And her answer really reminded me of what music means to me and why every day I work hard with a whole team to make this dream come alive for kids all over the country. "Music is EVERYTHING to me," Tequilla explained. "It is a constant fixture in my life. It's the first thing I think about when I wake up, and the last thing I think about before I go to sleep. Music is with me when I leave for class in the morning, when I come home from class in the evening. It plays while I shower...while I cook...while I clean. When I perform, I feel alive. I feel most confident when I am performing, most comfortable when I sing. Music is my best friend; it has gotten me through some of the darkest and most traumatic moments in my life. It also has made my most triumphant moments that much greater. I am constantly surrounded and engulfed in music."
The most recent Music-Versity workshop emphasized this point even further. Our Music-Versity workshops offer students in Music Unites (as well as those students outside of our programs) a glimpse into the music business day-to-day life. Whether it's learning about how Grammy Award-winning record producer, Danja, creates beats in our popular workshop with Dell Intel, or the most recent workshop at Viacom with our host Nick Lachey and panelists Elena Diaz (Vice President, MTV Music & Talent), Yomi Desalu (Vice President, MTV Music Programming), Kelly Griffin (Sr. Director, BET Music Programming), Jennifer Stilson (Vice President, VH1 Creative Music Integration), and Rey Casas (Government Relations, Viacom), our Music-Versity workshops are meant to introduce students to other aspects of the music industry. The panelists offered their advice to visiting high school students about breaking into their respective careers.
Working on spreading Music Unites' mission to empower, inspire and unite kids through music is gratifying work. It's empowering to see how Music Unites has helped individual musicians and our future rock stars grow. So ask yourself, whatever it is that you do, whatever it is that you love, what does it mean to you? Because, well, music? It means the world to us.