top of page

Story Time: How the Viola (and an Orchestra) Saved an Old Student of Mine...

~ How the Viola Saved the Day for an Old Student ~

And How Get In! Can Save You

When I moved out west after living and working as a violinist in Cleveland Ohio, the first thing I noticed (besides the beautiful weather) was that the orchestras in the public school system here in SoCal were not so great.

That is why I was very excited to find the San Diego Youth Symphony here. Located in Balboa Park in a beautiful old building surrounded by other old, beautiful Spanish Style buildings, museums and magnificent Banyan Trees, this little place is an absolute wonder when it comes to the inspiration and education of classical music. I wish I had a place like this growing up. I really do.

As a teacher, I always encourage my students to join youth symphonies. The opportunities these organizations create for their students are countless.

Here is a story of how music changed the trajectory of a student’s life even though she had no intention of playing music professionally.

One of my very first students here in San Diego was a very talented and intelligent high schooler named Christina. She was determined to go to college and she played the violin, was in SDYS, received great grades, did her extra curricular activities and volunteer hours.

She was on top of everything and was doing everything right to get into her dream school (Which was - The University of Notre Dame). She even showed up to her violin lesson with a University of Notre Dame baseball cap on. She was going to go to that school and that was that.

So, to “up her college admission game”, we decided to get her into playing the viola a bit more. She was not interested in becoming a musician and so the change of instruments was not a devastating move for her.

It was a smart one.

It was strategic.

And, it saved her buns with one specific university.

Now, since 9th grade, Christina had been planning and creating her life in a way that would allow her to stand out. I think she did this naturally due to the fact that she always was in the forefront of volunteering, joining groups and clubs and never working in a vacuum. She studied at home and maintained a high GPA but belonged to many organizations mostly because she enjoyed helping others.

On the forefront of her music preparation, she and I crafted a great practice regime and audition repertoire for the viola while she switched instruments and was now in the viola section in her youth symphony and took advantage of every opportunity they offered.

That was why we were both shocked when her rejection letter from the University of Notre Dame came in the mail. I remember her showing up at her viola lesson and standing in the doorway of my music studio on a Saturday wearing a baseball cap that was from another university. I won’t name names but this was a university that she wasn’t crazy about but was accepted to. She stood there holding her music and viola case and looked like she was going to cry. I invited her in and she told me her story.

The rejection letter, all of the hours of preparation. She really thought she had it in the bag. She worked so hard and did everything right. She met all of the requirements. What happened?!

I do not know for certain (but I will give my opinion anyway). Universities and Colleges are businesses and they have quotas to meet. They need to have a diverse student body. They need to fill different departments. Too many Math majors doesn’t work well when you need to fill your English department.

Students can meet all of the requirements and still not get in. It is disappointing to say the least!

I believe that the University of Notre Dame filled their quotas and departments and sent Christina on her way.

So, I do what I always have done in the past. I take a chance. I find that taking chances in life opens doors and teaches life skills more than just about anything else.

So I told her to call the Music Department and tell them that she didn’t get into the University. I told her to ask them if there was anything they could do.

So, she did.

And, they did.

The Music Department had 3 violas in the University of Notre Dame’s Orchestra and they needed another one. They needed her. The head of the department called Christina later on and told her that she was in. We were extremely excited and did a nice high five at her next lesson :)

She went to the university of her dreams, played in the university orchestra (with a scholarship) and now holds a Math Degree from The University of Notre Dame and is now a math teacher and business owner.

It feels so great when that happens.

You see, music can truly be a superpower. Is this a one time trick to get into college? Will it work every time? I have no idea. But, I have read about this happening before so I know that this is not a solitary event.

What instrument skill do you hold up your sleeve? What makes you special?

Join my FaceBook Group - Get In! And let’s have a conversation.

I am also giving a free online masterclass, “The Five Critical Concepts to College Admission.” If you would like to have some more information and ideas. It is being held on August 29th - September 2nd at 5pm Pacific Time. 7pm Central and 8pm Eastern. You can sign up for this at my website:

Also, at the end of this week (On my shiny refurbished Podcast!) I have an interview with Hemdah Solonimer-Horner where we discuss Neuro diverse students and how to prepare them for college. How to prepare the college and professors for them and how to create an atmosphere in which these amazing students will feel comfortable and thrive in a college setting. If you know of anyone who has a student or a child who is neuro divergent . It was a fascinating interview and Hemdah is amazing.

Thank you for listening and It’s time for you to Get In! To that university and start your new life.

See you later….

If you want to listen to My Shiny New Podcast, here is the link:

Check it out :)

9 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page