by Mary Beth Meehan
Vasquez: Tae, can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
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.
How did you first get involved in Community MusicWorks?
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.
Do you remember what they said in that first presentation?
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.
How do you think CMW has changed your life?
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.
Did you ever think of quitting violin or Community MusicWorks?
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.
What was your favorite workshop?
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
What was one of the proudest moments you've had in Community MusicWorks?
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.
What do you plan to do after you graduate? Are you going to continue
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.
How did your friends react when you told them you were in the program?
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
You have a brother and sister in the program, right?
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.
Has Louis ever told you he wanted to quit?
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.
You're one of the only seniors in the program this year. How does
it feel being a role model?
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.
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