We Are America

Voices of the Nation's Future

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Photo ofIsaias Marin

Ritchie Valens, a young Mexican-American rock and roll artist, has significantly influenced my life. I was first introduced to music in elementary school, where my musical journey began. In the 3rd grade, my teacher had given our class recorders. Recorders are woodwind instruments that look like a clarinet but sound like a flute. Our teacher had assigned the class to study 3 songs for a week, and we would have to present them. I was intrigued by the instrument as soon as I got my hands on it. 

I could not wait to get started. I stayed after school that day to practice the songs. I fell into a trance, blocking out the rest of the world as I explored music in a way I had never experienced before. Within a half-hour, I had memorized the songs and learned how to play them. After that week, the time came to present the songs. When I did, I told my teacher that I didn't need the notes because I had memorized the songs. So I went up and presented. After that day, I knew I found a passion within me. My teacher let me keep the recorder, which I still own to this day. Then time passed, and in the 5th grade, there was a new music program, so I joined it. This is where I was introduced to the clarinet. There were various instruments to choose from, but I chose the clarinet because it resembled the recorder. The teacher assigned us many songs to practice, and for each piece, I would learn it off the bat. There was a concert coming up, and the teacher gave me a solo. The song was "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." I remember I was very nervous. Still, as soon as we started playing, I was so into the music that I forgot there was an audience. So now time passes, and I'm in middle school. I joined the school band/orchestra, and I continued my journey with the clarinet. My passion and love for music continued increasing.

Now in high school, I'm thinking about my future career. I've been discovering new genres and new artists. My dream is to become a well-known "big" artist. Learning about these artists and genres made me have second thoughts of this dream of mine. I asked myself, how can a Mexican-American like me ever write successful "American" songs? At the time, I didn't know any Mexican-American artists who made it "big." And to add to my self-doubting, I tried out writing lyrics for the first time, but I just couldn't come up with anything. I tried about three more times; I still was not successful. 

That’s when I was introduced to an artist who changed my lack of self-confidence. Ritchie Valens, as mentioned earlier, was a Mexican-American who made it "big" at a young age. Ritchie Valens was the first successful Mexican-American rock star. After being introduced to him, he became my idol and my inspiration. I started looking at the brighter side of things. I realized I could come up with original melodies right off the bat and all I needed to do was practice my lyrical writing. Discovering Valens inspired me to start a YouTube channel where I upload covers of many songs. This, I believe, is the first step in pursuing this dream of mine.

© Isaias Marin. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person's teacher.