The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) has designated March as Music in Our Schools Month. To celebrate, the jsquared music performance center will be highlighting people who played instruments in grade school and the impact it made on their lives.
Today we feature Rahniesha Lewis. Rahniesha is a fundraiser for a non profit organization in Los Angeles, CA.
What instrument do you play?
At what age did you begin to play your first instrument?
Why did you start playing?
One day, my dad told me I was going to play an instrument and described all the benefits that come along with it. Being a trumpet and bass guitar player himself, he said he believed everyone should play an instrument at some point in their lives. He told me I had to commit to it for one full year and then if I didn't like it, I could move on to another activity. I had one week to pick an instrument of my choosing or else he would pick one out for me! LOL. So, I wound up choosing the clarinet since it didn't seem too far off from the wooden recorder I had and a couple of my friends also played the instrument.
What was your experience with music during your elementary, middle and high school years?
Middle school was where I began my interest in classical music. It was definitely a struggle trying to learn not to squeak and juggling between band practice, track practice, and chorus. After my 1st year of playing the clarinet in the 5th grade, I liked it so much that I decided to stick with it, I was getting the hang of it and I also liked this elite club I belonged to where we all were a part of something bigger. In high school, I had to make a tough decision to choose to stay in the band or chorus since they practiced at the same time. I chose the band so I could join the marching band since we could go to all the football games and go on trips; it also didn't hurt that our band was highly ranked in the state! I enjoyed playing movie scores, fight songs, and other musical favorites.
Who was your favorite music teacher? What made them your favorite?
My favorite music teacher was from elementary school, Ms. Galen. She was the first person to introduce Broadway musicals to me. She was my chorus teacher from Kindergarten through 3rd grade and we sang songs from popular musicals that were playing in the 80's like songs from Cats and Annie. I am now a lover of musicals because of her.
What is your favorite band memory from grade school?
One of my favorite times in band was from my senior year in high school. I lived in Virginia at the time and we got to go to Disney World to play in the 3pm Main Street Parade. I remember how exciting it was in the practices leading up to the trip and then actually being at the parade was so energetic. We were a part of the celebration and people were cheering us on and that just made you want to do a good job in the performance.
Did you play an instrument in college? Did music impact your college choice?
I wasn't going to play my clarinet in college, but, I found out that the marching band was going to be performing the halftime show at my favorite football team's (Redskins) last game in the old stadium against our rivals, the Cowboys. There was no way I was going to pass up that opportunity and plus, James Madison University had a reputation of having a good marching band. I wound up playing for 3 years and I was able to travel to Europe with the band in a once in a lifetime experience.
What is your current occupation?
I am a fundraiser for a Los Angeles nonprofit organization that helps kids get into and through college.
How has music helped you in your current occupation?
Music is a universal connector, I am able to identify with some of our students in our program that may be in band or chorus.
How has music played a part in your adult life?
I live music everyday. I may not play the clarinet anymore, but, I am in my church choir. I also support local music charities like the Grammy Museum and KJAZZ (a jazz radio station). I attend concerts and listen to music to get me through my day.
What advice do you have for young musicians?
Stay committed to playing or singing throughout your life or else you will feel a void. Once music is in your system it doesn't leave. Make time for music no matter what and you will be able to do things you never would have imagined. Also, musicians are part of a special group and don't be afraid to share your talents with others.