College Essay: Music Opens Doors

The beauty of the piano was that it became a large part of who I am. The consonant and dissonant sounds of jazz, classical, and modern music fill my limbic cortex with everlasting joy. Music has helped me cope with the loneliness of childhood and to gain self-confidence, and leadership.

My love for music will always be a center of my life even if college and career take me elsewhere. The piano also has led me to pursue other interests such as poetry, acting, biology, writing, and computer programming, including after-school extracurricular activities such as College Possible, Jazz Band, and Piano Club.

Jacky Thao, Harding Sr. High
Jacky Thao, Harding Sr. High

I did not fit in with classmates during my childhood years. I was somewhat awkward and aggressive, bored and very lonely.

On a sunny afternoon at my cousin’s house, I became fascinated with the piano as I heard my cousin play a solemn tune that sparked inspiration deep in my atria. I asked my father that day to buy me a piano. He did, and I taught myself. I sat down at my family’s electric piano more and more. YouTube videos, music lessons, and simple practices. Slowly, the piano became part of who I am.

The bliss of listening and playing my favorite pieces on piano always excited me. Despite the difficulty learning everything by myself, I felt the need to feel the pleasant sounds bring a chill down my spinal cord and that I wanted to finish it to the end.

I developed muscle memories on piano pieces without having to look back at the recording. Then I progressed on to play piano pieces by watching Synthesia piano tutorials, analyzing pieces by ear, learning how to read music notations, and how to improvise using major and minor scales.

Although I was able to learn and complete complex piano pieces, I wasn’t able to share my playing with anyone else.

That changed when I was a high school freshman when I was asked to play in a piano class. I felt insecure and pressured wondering whether my music teacher would disapprove of my style and seeing other students gaze stiffly at me. I laid my fingers on the polished wooden white and black keys and let loose the sounds of a summer vacation tune as if I were free to do anything I wanted. Free from the pressure and insecurity.

I had never had the feeling of performing in front of audiences before. To have my accomplishment acknowledged as they applauded made me feel at home. It was an insight that was sudden and new to me like receiving a jolt of nourishing life from a lightning strike. It has helped me gain self-confidence not only in music, however into making new friends too.

Playing the piano strengthened my character in other ways, too. I became president of the Piano Club. It was fun, but I recognized that I lacked the leadership skills for the job. So I dedicated most of my summer my freshman year to developing leadership skills in a program called the Center for Hmong Arts and Talents or CHAT. I created songs with friends and learned to improve expressing myself on stage and attracting me to other summer opportunities.

I’ve changed my life significantly. I’ve become self-driven in music, schoolwork, and discovering new opportunities — competing in musical competitions, volunteering, performing as an actor as well as a musician, trying to bring joy in communicating to audiences.

Although I may not major in music (following my parent’s wishes), my eyes have been opened to so many other areas of interest, especially in arts and communications, where I can make a contribution in college and career.