My name is Ji’keise Armwood and I’m currently a senior in High School. One question I get a lot is “You play the violin?” And the general answer that I give people is a nod or a “yes;” however, what no one ever asks is the why. There are few occasions in which people will say that it is nice to see someone black playing a violin, and I like getting that response from others. Still, that’s not the reason I play the violin. In order for me to explain, I’m going to have to take you back.
Way back when I lived in Irvine, California, one of my brothers and a cousin of mine tried to play the violin, and both had failed causing them to give up trying to play the instrument. At that time, I wasn’t into attempting to play, but it did peak my interest a little bit. It wasn’t until one day when my mother told me that she once played the violin (knowing this it made me wonder why she didn’t still play, it was the same story – she was bad at it so she gave up on it). After that day, my interest was finally sparked, I wanted to face this formidable beast myself and see what all the buzz was about. So, in the middle of my Sophomore year of high school, I transferred to Las Vegas High School and joined the orchestra.
My first time in there, I ruined every song that I played; I was simply terrible. I sat in the last stand of the violin one section – I was the second chair (meaning: I was the worst player in the violin section). Every time I attempted to play the notes, they would come across as screeching sounds of a chalkboard. Once I was too annoyed, I decided to take time outside of class to do practice because the skills I had weren’t good enough. From that I was able to get better, but nowhere near the level of those in front of me, they all had a few years ahead of me, but I never gave up; I kept going, and I kept trying. With enough time, what started out as the screeching sounds of a chalkboard became jumpy melodies. I kept getting better and better with each day seeking to reach the talent of the others. The day finally arrived it was our final performance, awards were handed out to select members of the orchestra, I was awarded the most improved person in the orchestra. Words cannot describe how I felt when I got that award.
Going back to school in my Junior year I came back with a new confidence; however, that’s not the only thing that changed. I decided that I was going to switch instruments causing me to switch to the viola. I didn’t realize it until it was too late but the viola had it’s unique clef, the alto clef. A new problem, for my audition, because at the time I could only read violin music; this caused me to absolutely ruin my audition. I had to start all over; however, this time around I was the 3rd stand first chair of a section of four stands. Everyone in front of me had at least 2+ years of playing the viola. Around the middle of the year, we got our chance to audition again to move up in our section. I performed so well I was moved to the first stand second chair meaning I was second best violist in the orchestra. I achieved all of that with my hard work and commitment to become better than those around me. However, as of now, I no longer play the viola, for I’ve switched back to the violin.
So now you are probably asking, “Well, what was the point of this article? I don’t play an instrument so why would I care? Who’s the audience here? Who cares about your success?” The reason I wrote this article is to tell my experience of what it means to put real hard work and dedication into something you want to do. I took something that others before me gave up on and developed it into one of my greatest feats. My audience is anybody and everybody because I believe that everyone has the ability to accomplish what they want to do, as long as you are willing to put the time into doing whatever it is you want to do. If I can pick up an instrument and become better than others who have spent 5 years playing in my first few months, then why can’t you do the things you want to do? I want everyone to see my story of how I achieved the impossible to inspire all of you to try your best at all of the things you want to do so can achieve those things.
Now that I’ve given you my story, it is time for you to start your own journey, while remembering, although this might be hard and there are those better than you at what you want to do, you will never give up; you will surge forward and become better than those in front of you.