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2014 Senior and Alumni Reflection


Rohan Banerjee
Thomas Jefferson HS, M.I.T

I spent my earliest years watching my sister play the black and white keys of the piano. Although I was not overly eager to play the piano myself, I was nevertheless mesmerized by the rich quality of music that the piano could produce. My mother convinced me to try out the instrument myself during the summer before fifth grade, and so began my almost decade-long relationship with the piano. I picked up the red-and-white Faber and Faber book and spent that summer learning every piece in the book, with the gracious help of my sister, before my formal instruction began.


The years passed by and my interest in the piano and music never waned, even as my daily schedule became progressively busier. I explored playing the viola and the tabla (an Indian classical drum) during my late elementary and middle school years, which exposed me to unique flavors of music. I began to see music not merely as an extracurricular activity but as a craft that I could carry with me for the rest of my life. Whenever the time came to sacrifice my activities to accommodate my schedule, I always made the decision to never give up playing the piano, as some of my friends had done.


These past four years under the mentorship of Mrs. Juliana have really been a blessing. Her kindness, compassion, and musical expertise are what motivated me to continue my craft and come every Saturday morning in the midst of my rigorous high school years. I learned to appreciate not just the music itself but also the background and the emotions behind the music. Mrs. Juliana also exposed me to an amazingly broad repertoire of music, ranging from the Classical music of Beethoven to the Romantic music of Chopin and Brahms to modern composers such as Gershwin. As I move on to a new phase in my life, I will continue to treasure the love for music that I have cultivated up to this point. I know that the piano will always serve as a way to bring joy, balance, and relaxation to my life. Music has made me a more complete person, and I am eternally grateful to everyone who has guided and supported my musical effort.



 Frani Beard
 Westfield HS, Shenandoah University

Music has always been an outlet for me, a longtime companion who speaks for me when words cannot. A pianist of 11 years, I always knew I wanted to major in music, but I desired a more beneficial field than just being a performer. The more I prayed about what I should pursue, the more God impressed upon my heart a deeper love for people.


Every summer with my youth group, we go to various nursing homes and assisted living centers to give the residents loving company. Many of them have lost family members or their relatives don’t visit very often, so when they see a large group of young people caring for them, they feel so loved. That’s my goal to this day—making sure others feel loved and appreciated. I’ve volunteered with my church since the summer of 7th with serving people in need. Since last year, I knew I wanted to be a Music Therapist and work with mentally disabled people. I want to help those who can’t help themselves. I want to be a servant to them, using my passion for music to build them up and give them peace of mind. Once God pressed that career path on my heart, the doors started opening to be able to attend Shenandoah University, one of two schools in Virginia with a Music Therapy program.


Mrs. Juliana’s methods of instruction always pushed me to do my very best. With her help over the last six years, I’ve been placed in high pressure performances like the Honors Recital for Sonata Festival and rigorous college auditions. Not only has she been invaluable, but a dear friend as well. I will dearly miss laughing with her and enjoying her company as I move on to the next stages of my life.



Bryan Chen
Woodson HS, UVA

Like many other piano-learners, I wasn’t always fond of touching these basswood keys. I remember when I first began taking piano lessons with Mrs. Kuo at age 12, it was always my mother’s thunderous nagging about my lack of practice that comprised my weekly routine known as “the piano lesson.” Although fortunately I did not have a tiger mother who beat me with a ruler for every wrong note, I had yet to find my motivation to practice some other way. Seeing Mrs. Kuo’s other 12-year-old students master Bach and Tchaikovsky while I struggled to keep up with my do-re-mi’s. I couldn’t help but stare at them in awe and return home with reinvigorated determination. I switched teachers a year later. After five years, four teachers, and several cases which I just wanted to throw in the towel, I returned to Mrs. Juliana there months ago, feeling there was no better teacher for me, and I can safely say it was the best decision I’d made. Being able to perform one of Rachmaninoff’s masterpieces here tonight was not something I could even dream of six years ago when I drilled my do-re-mi’s.


I would like to thank Mrs. Kuo for how eye-opening these past few months studying with her have been. Before I returned, my repertoire was unhealthily limited to classical music, but once I entered Mrs. Kuo’s studio, I was exposed me to other genres of music, like jazz, which made playing the piano a way of self-discovery. Even though compared with most classical pianists I’ve played for a relatively short amount of time and lack experience, this does not hinder my passion for the piano, nor should it hinder anyone to pursue their hobby. I plan to continue taking piano courses throughout college and hope to play piano for the rest of my life, even though I do not intend to pursue music professionally. To me, the piano is a method of escaping reality. 


Shalisa James
Westfield HS, Yale University

Just four short years ago, my life was far more devoid of music than I would have liked. Then I began taking piano and voice lessons with Mrs. Kuo, and what I learned from her, and the music I was able to create, filled me in a way nothing else could have. Though only a beginner, I was able to sit at the piano and glean a satisfaction and a subtle peace from the music-making. I was able to sing pieces, though they may have been in another language, understand the emotion behind the song, and empathize with it. Music became an outlet and a release. At the piano I could let go of any negative emotions and be truly happy. Four years later, I am able to play pieces far more difficult than I had imagined after such a short time, a skill I owe entirely to Mrs. Kuo’s instruction, encouragement, and motivation. Though I still get nervous before I play or sing for an audience, I’ve learned that every performance is an opportunity to learn and to improve, and I have come to appreciate each opportunity. I can imagine a life without music in it no more than I can imagine a world without air to breathe. I am eternally grateful to Mrs. Kuo for the gift she has given me in the ability to create music, to my parents for supporting me in this endeavor, and to God for working through me to make it all possible.

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