10 Years... 10 Stories

An interview project celebrating the tenth anniversary of Community MusicWorks.

Interviews conducted by:

Fidelia Vasquez,
Community MusicWorks cellist & board member
and Chloë Kline, Community MusicWorks Fellow

Special thanks to all of our interviewees for sharing their time and their stories, to Liz Hollander for the inspiration to start this project and brainstorming help, and to Liz Cox for her transcription heroics.

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Tenth Year Violin

10 Years... 10 Stories

    Josh Rodriguez

    Vanessa Centeno

    Sara Stalnaker

    Karen Romer

    Zeeny & Patrice Wolfe

    Tae Ortiz

    Itza Serrano

    Sebastian Ruth

    Carolina Jimenez

    Jesse Holstein

Tae Ortiz,

                                                                 Photo by Mary Beth Meehan

Fidelia Vasquez: Tae, can you tell me a little bit about yourself?


Tae Ortiz: Well, I go to Textron Chamber High School on Broadway. I'm a senior. I play the violin, I've been with CMW for eight years, and this is my last year because I'm going off to college soon. But I'll definitely be back to visit.

FV: How did you first get involved in Community MusicWorks?


TO: I got involved in the third grade in the West End Community Center when I met Sebastian and Minna. They came and did a little presentation about the violin and CMW. Back then there were like sixty students. I was really interested, because the year before I had started violin in school, but I didn't like it too much, because throughout the year we only learned one song. So I was like, “Let me give it a try.” So I started with CMW, and I was very pleased, because I learned a couple of songs that year.

FV: Do you remember what they said in that first presentation?


TO: I don't remember too well what they were saying, but I remember perfectly that Sebastian was crouched down with a violin, showing all the kids, and I was in the back row, just looking. I didn't ask any questions, but I was nodding my head and thinking, “This is pretty cool.” And he gave a big announcement to the whole day care, talking about what CMW was. I was excited.

FV: How do you think CMW has changed your life?

TO: Oh my God, where do I start? It connects to everything I do in my life. Even colleges, it's the first thing they look at. It's helped me in so many things: with my grades, with school, with my family, with friends. It definitely took pressure away from my life. At home, I have a busy life, and it's hard for me to do homework, so sometimes I just push my homework away and practice a little, and that eases my life.

FV: Did you ever think of quitting violin or Community MusicWorks?


TO: Of course. I'm not going to lie. When I was in middle school I thought about quitting. That's a phase right there! Minna was my teacher, and I remember talking to her, and she told me that when she was younger she felt like quitting too, that it was normal for people to feel like that. Later that same week, we had a workshop, and there were these college girls who were telling me that I shouldn't quit. They had no idea that I felt like quitting, they just came up to me, and said, “You should really keep going, don't quit, because I played the violin when I was younger and I forgot how to play because I quit.” That made me think, “Wow, I better think about this twice before I quit,” you know? I might be missing out. So I stayed in there, thanks to Minna and Sebastian, and my mom, and you don't know how much I appreciate that.

FV: What was your favorite workshop?


TO: I definitely liked the Cuban jazz pianist, Osmany Paredes. That was really cool. My grandfather lives in Puerto Rico, and I actually called him during the workshop, because I knew he would be so psyched about it. I held up the phone, and he was listening. He was like, “Where you at?” He really liked it. That was one of the most memorable ones, because I always used to hear that kind music but I never saw anyone actually play it. And being in the room with it, I really liked the feel of it. So that was one of the best.

FV: What was one of the proudest moments you've had in Community MusicWorks?


TO: When I used to work here. I started in the tenth grade. There's a “school to work” program at my school, and I had gone on a couple of interviews and they didn't hire me, so Sebastian was like, “Why don't you come work with us here?” So Sebastian interviewed me, and he explained to me all the things that go on in the office, and I was really amazed because I had only seen the outside of the program. I had never really seen the work that Anne did, and Liz does, and it was really interesting. I started working on the scrapbooks, making the fliers, the budgets, helping out with that. It was really a good time, and a good experience for me.

FV: What do you plan to do after you graduate? Are you going to continue playing?


TO: Of course. Every college I visited, I made sure to ask if they had a music program. And most of the schools that I applied to and got in to do have a music program. Some are competitive, some are just open, but I'm definitely going to audition. And if I don't get in, I'm going to rent a violin or buy one or something. I just want to have the violin in my life.

FV: How did your friends react when you told them you were in the program?


TO: In middle school I was very, very shy, and very conservative of my instrument. I would do anything to try to hide that thing. I would do whatever it took so that no one would see me with it! I remember one day I went to the mall with my brother after we got out of a workshop, and Sebastian brought us there because my mom couldn't pick us up. Anyways, we had to bring our violins inside the mall, out of all places, on a Friday night, with a million people around! We were walking up and down the mall looking for our parents, and carrying those cases. Finally I was like, “Well, if I can't beat it, I've got to stick with it and love it. So I have a violin, so what?” That day, I decided I didn't have anything to be afraid of. People look at you because you're different, but what's so bad about that?

FV: You have a brother and sister in the program, right?


TO: My brother Louis, and my sister Tanya. Tanya is my little sister, and she just started in the program. Minna is her teacher. She loves it! She has a tiny violin. She's been so eager to join, ever since she was five years old. She used to take my violin! This year, I help her practice her violin. Sometimes I hear her playing in her room, and I'm like, “That's good! She's playing on her own. That's good!”


FV: Has Louis ever told you he wanted to quit?

TO: He did want to quit once because he had like so many other things to do. Basketball, and other sports, and school things. But I told him, “Later on you're going to want to come back in, and it's going to be too late, and you're doing so well.” And he looked at how I was doing, because I told him that I wanted to quit at one point but I kept going, so that definitely changed his mind.

FV: You're one of the only seniors in the program this year. How does it feel being a role model?


TO: Well, I'm used to it from being a big sister. But it definitely feels good because you know younger students are looking up to you. Before, I used to look up to other people so I know how you guys feel. It just feels good to know that you guys are looking up to someone who could show you the right path, and open your eyes to a good future.

FV: What do you think about people who don't have music in their life?


TO: How can you live? Music is just… it's beautiful. It's not even just classical music. Any kind of music. When I first started CMW, I just liked hip hop and all that, but now I like all kinds of music. I'll listen to random music that I never listened to before, and you know, I like it. Music should be in everybody's life. 




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