We Are America

Voices of the Nation's Future

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Photo ofSamuel Vest
When I was young, I was just your average shy kid. I never stood up in class and answered questions, I barely talked to people I didn’t know if I could help it, and I only had a few good friends. All of that changed when my sister wanted to take up piano. Because my mom didn’t want me to feel left out, she signed me up too.

  I was expecting to be bored, but it turns out I really enjoyed it and learned pretty quickly. I became very interested in music, the first hobby I ever had, and for 4 years I played for a man that was essentially the best piano player I’ve ever known. I strove to be like him, but as a child I didn't have the work ethic to practice.

Eventually he moved away, and for 3 years I played on and off. I then decided to get a new piano teacher, who had recently moved from Utah. She was also very good and pushed me to do my best. However, as I was taking piano lessons, my teacher suggested that I should play for an audience during a party that was coming up. When she asked me if I would, I said yes, even though I was not ready at all. The song she wanted me to play was brand new to me and had hard jumps to pull off with my hands as well as weird rhythms, but my teacher always told me to just keep playing. 

As I continued to practice, I continuously messed up. On one run I would get one part right and another wrong, and the next time I would get those parts right but mess up another part. I got frustrated with myself every time I practiced and would decide to give up, thinking that if I took a break and tried again the next day I would get it right. The next day would come, and I was no better. I was pretty nervous as I practiced and was scared I would make a fool of myself in front of everyone at the party. But then, one day while I was practicing, I decided I wasn’t going to stop until there was no way I could mess up. I spent hours and hours every day practicing and playing for my teacher, who gave me feedback on what I should focus on while practicing. All I knew was that I wanted to keep playing. 

Eventually the day of the party came and I was really nervous, but I felt ready. I knew deep down that no matter what happened, I just needed to keep playing. I did my best and everyone was excited to hear me play in front of everyone. I had so much fun that I forgot all about the fear of messing up. I didn’t miss a single note. I was so happy that I felt like nothing would ever bring me down. I was so proud that my hard work paid off, that I advanced through most of my new music like it was nothing. 

Now that I’m older, I am very outgoing and have a passion for music that I try to use to bring others up like it brought me up. Even though my teacher had to move back to Utah, her impact, as well as the impact from my first teacher, will never leave me. I’ll never forget how important it is for me to practice to do a good job on the things I care about, and no matter what, just keep playing. 

© Samuel Vest. 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.