Photo by Mary Beth Meehan
Vasquez: Josh, can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
Rodriguez: Well, I've been playing the viola for 5 and
a half years. I'm 14, about to be 15. And I like classical music.
It's something my friends sometimes insult me about, but I think
it's great, and all my teachers and all my siblings think it's great.
And actually most my friends do, too, except a couple. Some of them
think playing an instrument is girlish. But I like it.
How did you get involved in Community MusicWorks?
My cousin, Vanessa Centeno was a student here from the
beginning. I saw what she did, and then I liked it a lot, and then
my mom finally said, “Well, let's go sign up,” and I came to the
office and I met Jesse Holstein. Jesse asked me what instrument
I wanted to play, and I told him violin. And he said, “You know,
there's a cooler instrument.” And I asked, “What is it?” And he
told me that it was the viola, and not a lot of people play it.
And I said, “Hey, why not give it a shot.”
How do you think CMW has changed your life?
It's changed my life a lot. It sometimes gets in the way
of the other things that I do, but it keeps me away from the streets
and all the bad things that happen there, things I wouldn't want
to be involved with. Without CMW, I'd just probably be outside in
the street being a bad kid. Maybe even selling drugs and doing other
things around my neighborhood that I see other kids doing, that
my friends do. It's just not what I would want.
Has there ever been a time you wanted to quit playing the viola?
Yes. But my sister and Jesse both talked me out of it.
My sister told me about all the good things that come out of this.
She was like, “This could really help you out with school,” and
I knew she was right. Ever since I joined CMW, my grades have increased,
and they always said playing an instrument helps you out with that
kind of stuff! And Jesse also talked to me. I appreciate what Jesse
said. He said that I shouldn't quit because I've grown so much from
playing viola, and that I've gotten so good that he wouldn't want
to see me quit, and it would make him feel as if he failed.
Do you remember why you wanted to quit?
I wanted to quit because it was taking a lot of my time,
and I thought, “Hey, why can't I be outside with my friends, playing
games, and tag,” you know. I was young. I just thought about wanting
to go outside, and the way I could do that was to quit. It wasn't
the right choice, though, and I realized it.
Do you have a favorite workshop that you've been to over the years?
Mine would have to be the one with Rob Bethel. First of
all, Rob is just a cool guy. When I'm with Rob, I don't feel nervous,
you know? Even if I was in front of a completely different group
of people, I wouldn't feel nervous. And also, the improvisation
is so fun. I can let my mind speak. The way he says things like,
“There's no wrong notes,” makes me feel good. I can just let my
mind play what I want to play. I can let my instrument show the
way I'm feeling.
You seem like a pretty relaxed performer. Do you get nervous when
All the time. I'm nervous right now! I remember all my
Performance Parties I would get nervous, but Jessie Montgomery,
when she was around, she would tell me to just imagine them in their
pajamas or something. I tried that, and it worked.
How has Phase II changed over the years?
Well, for one thing there's a lot more practices. And
now we have the quartets, which are cool. Also, the discussions
have changed a lot. We talk a lot more than before, and we talk
about different subjects. I learned about Plato's Cave
during the discussions, and about other things that affect the universe.
Like the Darfur genocide, and Hurricane Katrina. I didn't know a
lot of stuff about Hurricane Katrina until we had that discussion
last year. Also, Phase II makes us more part of the community. It
makes us involved with people, like for example we got involved
with the soup kitchens. We helped them out, we played for them,
which was really fun, and it also shows a lot of people that we
actually care for the community and we'd like things to change.
What's your proudest moment at CMW?
My proudest moment is when I come to my lessons and I
come with my practice sheet filled out. It makes Jesse happy. Also,
there are a lot of family moments. Playing the viola makes my siblings
be more proud of me. My mom is like, “Oh I'm so proud of my son,
he plays viola,” and she'll start hugging me, and the rest of my
siblings are like, “Mom, please!” I remember when my family all
came over on Christmas, I played for my family, and a couple of
them started crying. And the rest of them were really proud. It
made me feel good.
How do you think you have changed as a person in CMW?
I have changed. When I first joined, I was young and foolish.
I would just act like a little kid. Over the years, this has made
me act more mature. I notice I don't talk as much as I used to.
I'll be the quiet one in the whole bunch.
If you knew a younger kid who was thinking about quitting, what
would you tell him?
I'd tell him to look at me, you know? I'm cool. Just kidding!
I'd just tell him just to think about it, you know? Some things
are worth quitting for, and some things are not. A lot of things
are not worth quitting for. Because this could take you
really far. Not a lot of people know how to play instruments. You
can really get a lot from this program.
As you get older, and people start looking at you as a role model,
how does that make you feel?
JR: It makes me feel great, you know? People looking
up to me will make me work a lot harder. I don't want them to see
me slacking or anything. It makes me feel proud.