Jubilee Chen, Violin. Community Builder.
Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio

Jubilee teaches violin lessons, coaches a chamber group, and is always looking for ways to build community through music.

My mother was a piano teacher, and when I was growing up our house was full of extra pianos. My mom was always buying instruments to give away to her students, because she believed that cost shouldn’t inhibit anyone’s access to a quality instrument. This vision of equity in the music field is something that I’ve tried to carry on. That’s why I chose to study community advocacy alongside violin performance.

As a performer and community-based educator, I’m dedicated to advocating for classical music and finding ways for it to flourish in our society. In 2018, I served as assistant concertmaster for an event focused on racial reconciliation and national peace. I later worked on community-based leadership and grassroots organizing projects as well as initiatives to create affordable housing and improve food security. This work helped me realize that I could not divorce my calling as a musician (someone who sees to emotional needs) from my responsibility to address people’s material needs as well.

Longy is the only school I know of that offers a pedagogical approach, school culture, and opportunities that deeply integrate the arts with social connection and transformation. In our contemporary times, I can’t imagine music looking any other way.

My dreams are to eventually start a chamber music and teaching program that’s also a community pillar and creatively supports families and youth. This would include addressing issues in affordable housing, food security, and crime. I feel privileged to have worked with all sorts of students over the years, who have stage fright, tantrums, ADHD, Down Syndrome, and many different backgrounds. Teaching is worth the challenge when I see my students’ passion and enthusiasm for learning about music. At Longy, I look forward to collaborating with peers and faculty who lead not just by their accomplishments, but also by their compassion for the lives they touch.

Santiago Barragan Noguera, Jazz and Contemporary Music, Guitar
Hometown: Bogotá, Colombia

Santiago Barragan Noguera is a musician, writer, dancer and content creator. He is Longy School of Music’s first Equity Scholarship recipient and will be pursuing a Master of Music in Jazz & Contemporary Music as a guitarist at Longy.

I feel extremely grateful to be the first recipient of Longy’s Equity Scholarship. So many talented and passionate artists around the world are unable to access their dreams because of financial hardship or other barriers. I’m inspired when I think of the difference that scholarships like this will make in the lives of musicians and educators.

While I was born in Bogotá, Colombia, I moved to France when I was 18 to study at the Conservatory of Nancy, where I received a diploma with special mention. I continued my studies at the Berklee College of Music, in Guitar Performance and Jazz Composition.

I’m so excited that Longy has given me the opportunity to continue to grow as a musician and educator. I believe we should craft learning systems that facilitate the acquisition of new skills and knowledge. It’s also essential to promote the public’s understanding of the arts and to acknowledge the monumental role that artists have as agents of change.

Joshua Dixon, Vocals. Teacher. Activist.
Hometown: Chesapeake, Virginia

The real magic of music lies in collaboration. I’ve found that working with other artists is a way to create meaningful shared experiences. It’s so important to surround yourself with a team that believes in your art and supports your point of view. That’s why I chose Longy—I’ll be able to curate performances that truly reflect my artistic vision.

After years of performing in choral ensembles, I became a voice teacher. My teaching career is a form of activism; I constantly advocate for my students to be more authentically themselves in both their performances and repertoire. It’s a fundamental need—for educators, institutions, and artists to create space for real representation and inclusivity.

As a queer artist, I think it’s imperative to bring that perspective to my performances, curating more visibility on stage and in concert halls. So many queer artists are still discouraged from being their authentic selves onstage and this creates a toxic and exclusionary atmosphere.

My students have pushed me to be more vulnerable and authentic, and watching them perform is both a privilege and an emotional experience for me. I’m able to appreciate the hard work and time they’ve spent working on their craft. In the end, my biggest inspiration is watching people find joy in their art.

Arson Fahim, Piano. Composition. Leader.
Hometown: Kabul, Afghanistan

Equity Scholarship recipient Arson Fahim fell in love with music by chance. One day at age 5, in the Afghan refugee camp in Pakistan where Arson lived, he walked into a room where people were watching the World War II film The Pianist. The movie portrays the true story of Holocaust survivor and musician Wladyslav Szpilman, and Arson was captivated by what he saw.

I remember thinking, “Wow, how could the sound of a piano save someone’s life?” All those years, I dreamed that one day I could touch a real piano.

In 2012 when my family settled in Kabul, I heard the piano again at a children’s learning centre in the city. From behind a closed door of a room came this wonderful sound—someone was playing a beautiful piece of music. I knew I should not go in uninvited, but I couldn’t help myself. The teacher was giving a lesson, but he let me walk up to the baby grand piano. I gently touched it and pressed every single key, for the first time in my life. From that moment, I knew I had to learn piano. I had to become a musician.

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The piece he had heard and fallen in love with was by Frederic Chopin. He later learned it was Chopin he had heard in The Pianist, and the one piece that stayed with him in particular—Chopin’s Nocturne number 20 in C sharp minor—was the one that Wladyslav Szpilman had played to save himself in real life. Fahim took his first piano lesson that day.

His dedication, skill, and support from mentors and benefactors eventually earned him a spot at the National Institute of Music. Yet during Taliban rule in Afghanistan music was banned, and even two decades later, the group still exerts influence in most areas of Afghanistan.

My parents told me I would not be able to get a job if I studied music. It took me a long time to persuade them to let me do it. They feared that my life would be in danger for taking up music and playing a Western instrument. They are still worried about it now.

His 2018 piano composition, “Freedom”, honors the Afghan journalists lost to violence that year. A reporter is someone who works for our freedom. Journalists are my heroes. Through my music, I want to show my support to them and raise my voice against those who try to take our freedom.

Read more about Arson’s inspiring story in the BBC News!

DeShaun Gordon-King, Flute. Music as a Healing Art
Woodwinds Graduate Performance Diploma
Hometown: East St. Louis, Illinois

DeShaun Gordon-King is a flutist who performs in a variety of genres and styles. He is pursuing a Graduate Performance Diploma at Longy School of Music to help him become a more impactful artist in the modern music scene.

Being a musician means you can talk to everyone. I think of music as a divine form of communication.

I was born into an artistic family, surrounded by a love of music, so my journey as a musician started early. It hasn’t always been easy—I’ve had my instrument stolen, I’ve doubted myself, and I’ve faced rejection. But I know music brings healing. It is important to hold on to the joy that music brings, and keep my mind on what inspires him as I evolve in my art.

I’ve also been transformed by experiencing other musicians’ performances. When I saw Jazzmeia Horn—in the last concert I attended before quarantine began—I was moved by her elegance and stage presence. The performance was so spellbinding that it reminded me of how jazz catalyzed my love of music and how it was always with me even though I’ve departed quite a ways from it. That particular performance showed me that I needed to bring jazz back into my life.

So far in my career, I’ve been able to help children from a variety of backgrounds engage in and foster a passion for music. I was involved with KidzNotes, an El Sistema-inspired program in Durham, and was the manager of the North Carolina Youth Wind Ensemble.

I chose Longy because the school offers a breadth of programming to help me continue my career as a musician. I hope to discover and refine my niche as an artist and bring audiences an experience that transcends genre and leaves them feeling enriched.

Macaulley Whitlock, Cello

Macaulley Whitlock is a cellist and teacher who comes from a family full of musicians and educators. She is coming to Longy from Monterrey, Mexico, where she has been working to develop a strings and community outreach program for local children.

Starting the “Huasteca Adacemy” in Monterrey showed me how easily music can cross borders. I have been working to develop my school’s strings program and reach out to the community around the school. Once a week after school I bring instruments to the kids who live nearby and we learn violin, play games, read books, and eat snacks. In spite of the language barrier, we’ve managed to communicate and learn together. It has been such a beautiful experience.

It’s so special when I get to see the impact of music with my students first-hand. I’ll never forget when my 4th grade small group was setting up for their lesson and I overheard one of the students saying “Yes! Time for violin! I’ve been waiting all day for this—I can finally be myself!” Moments like that fill my heart with joy and show me how transformative music education is for young musicians.

I am inspired by all the phenomenal music educators who I’ve gotten to observe, practice with, and learn from throughout my childhood and career. I chose to come to Longy for my Masters of Music in Music Education because I want to be part of a positive change in education, and I believe in making music and education more accessible and equitable for all children. I always keep that “why” in mind as I grow as a teacher and a person. Being a music educator may be emotionally exhausting at times, but it’s also so magical, joyful, and human.

Kateri Lirio, Teacher Education
Hometown: Los Angeles, California, USA

“Music connects people and you need to share it with all your heart.”

Kateri is an arts educator and a multidisciplinary artist who cares deeply about social justice. Her recent collaborations have included work with the Filipino American Symphony Orchestra, Arts for Incarcerated Youth Network, Gay Men’s Chorus of LA, and the Khalsa Peace Corps, all in addition to her own music-making and teaching.

“I attended the Orange County School of the Arts and Cal Poly Pomona where I studied with Longy alumna and GRAMMY-winning pianist, Dr. Nadia Shpachenko and Mike Garson (keyboardist for David Bowie). When I discovered Longy’s Teacher Education program—everything about it felt like me. I’m so happy to walk in their footsteps!”

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A few years ago, I made a trip to Hospicio de San Jose in Manila, Philippines, to prepare an orphaned children’s choir to perform for a fundraiser. I met Ashlyn through this work, a 9-year-old girl with a propensity for both melody and emotional honesty. As we got to know each other, she shared her feelings of unease as many of her friends began to be placed for adoption. She wanted to find a way to express her desire to be satisfied—whether or not she found a permanent home.

“Ate! Ate! Can you teach me how to write a song?” I was taken aback that she trusted me and saw me as an “Ate” (pronounced Ah-Teh), an honorific for “older sister” in Tagalog. The result of our meetings developed into a song called “The Power of Your Love.” I felt like I had unlocked a gateway to her self-expression. This experience of mentoring and collaborating has stayed so present with me (and I still have a recording of it)!

I live as an American-born Filipina in LA. As a second-generation immigrant, I don’t have deep roots in America nor do I have deep roots in my motherland. I’ve always felt “in between” and an “other.” This makes me a stronger teacher because I prioritize connecting with each student over producing “results.” When people feel seen and heard, it’s so much easier to do the work.

After auditing a social justice course taught by the MAT’s Ndindi Kitonga the summer of 2019, I knew Longy would be the ideal place to be surrounded by a cohort of like-minded individuals. I was impressed with Dr. Kitonga’s knowledge and experience serving marginalized communities through experimental, hands-on education. Learning the principles of El Sistema will enhance my teaching practice and provide a better framework for me to create my own programs going forward.

Like Ashlyn, I needed someone to show me how to express myself and now that I’m well on my way, I want to give back. As I experienced in the Philippines, a relationship based on trust and vulnerability enhances the apprentice-mentorship relationship. It sets the stage for any sort of learning. And sharing yourself openly can make a difference in any community—marginalized and affluent alike—when they are fragmented. It is my hope that I can be an “Ate” for others in the Greater Los Angeles area and bridge the equity gap through teaching music.

Check out Kateri’s pitch for a kids’ television show for Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, “MUSIC IS EASY!” Aligned with common core standards, it will debunk the myth that understanding music and music theory is only for the privileged. patreon.com/musiciseasy

Joi Harper, Composition
Hometown: Portsmouth, Virginia, USA

“I come from a family of strong female leaders, and every day I’m inspired by them. I want to be an inspiration to other composers and encourage young women and women of color to join this field. My advice to those who are just starting out: don’t pressure yourself to be ‘the best.’ Sometimes when we feel less represented, we put unnecessary pressure on ourselves that can get in the way of our craft.

Use the beginning of your path in music to explore things you’ve never heard—and re-visit the favorites you listen to all the time. Don’t compare yourself with others or worry if other people will like what you’ve written—decide if you like it. Let your journey be your own.”

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“I started writing songs at a young age and began to share these songs with my high school choir teacher. I didn’t know much about music theory, so she taught me to apply the basic concepts to what I was writing. With that knowledge, I was able to branch out into other areas and explore the world of composition. She inspired me to become the composer I am today.

Introducing people to new music is one of my goals. The experience I hold closest to my heart: after introducing the George Mason University Chorale to Kenyan music, we got the chance to travel to Nairobi, Kenya to share American songs as a cultural exchange. I wrote a piece for our choir to sing with the Nairobi Chamber Chorus, incorporating aspects of Kenyan hymns and gospel music, and went on to teach and conduct it.

I heard the song so much, during our choir rehearsals, that it started to lose its impact. I wasn’t prepared for the reception the piece received when we sang it all together. There was dancing, singing along, and a deep sense of pride in our combined cultures—I had never seen this before. It was strange that in a place so far away, I was reminded of home.

That made me realize exactly why I want to write my own music. I want to be continually challenged to create compositions out of my comfort zone. And as the only African-American female in my undergrad composition program, I see first-hand how important change is to the field.

Longy’s catalyst curriculum, location, and accomplished professors brought the school to the top of my list very quickly. But it was my personal connections with the Longy community as I applied and interviewed that made me realize what a good fit it is for me. It’s a great sign of how much individual attention will be part of my study—I like to know the people I’m working with!”

Visit Joi Harper’s website!

Samuel Durand, Piano
Hometown: Cabot, Arkansas, USA

I want the world to know what music can do and why musicians devote so much time and effort to it, as music is a language that expresses the things that words cannot. This power really shines when you allow music to move you and tell you something new.

As I studied music throughout my childhood, it slowly drew me in further and further, as I realized it enabled me to share emotions. All my life, I have never been demonstrative. But experiencing emotions through music was somehow liberating. Suddenly, I could share my inner life with SOUND. Although I am much more open to sharing myself with others now, music continues to give me a place to express everything from love and wonder to pain and anger—in short, to communicate with listeners in a different way.

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Music is such a deep and layered form of art. On the surface, it may look like a science: the notation, varied forms, and theory. But using unique harmonies, sounds, and effects of various musical instruments to evoke something is almost like painting or sculpting. It’s a beautiful testimony to the complex design and order of our earth.

I heard a lot of music during my childhood: Mom would practice her flute, Dad would put on CDs of film scores, and we would sing hymns together in church. When I was about seven, my mom started teaching me to play the piano. Until I was eleven, she was my only teacher along with my lovely—yet strict—grandmother.

When my parents took me and my siblings to the local nursing home to play and sing for the residents, I met many people who had lost the ability to communicate clearly. When we played old songs and familiar hymns, those same residents would recognize the tune and respond by singing along! Music triggers deep memories and restores connections among those who feel isolated—pretty amazing!

I also love teaching young students who are encountering music for the first time. As they learn and grow, you can see their amazement at how well music is designed, organized, and laid out. Whether these students end up being concert pianists or not, I have had the privilege to instill in them a life-long appreciation and respect for the complexity and power of music.

Longy is different from other conservatories because of its emphasis on growth and support, not JUST perfection. I look forward to joining the studious and warm atmosphere that is present throughout the school. And I can’t wait to learn from Longy’s amazing faculty! My goal in coming to Longy is to become a more dedicated, detail-oriented, and thoughtful musician as I prepare to make a difference in the world.

Hollyn Slykhuis, Trumpet. Music for Social Change.
Hometown: Harrisonburg, Virginia, USA

Hollyn is a woman on a mission. As a trumpeter and music educator, she is breaking barriers and empowering others through music equity. Her studies have taken her from the Baton Rouge school system to teaching abroad in Chile and the LA Phil’s YOLA National Festival, and most recently a music education degree at Louisiana State University.

“My passion for social justice has come to the forefront of my goals. I see myself working in existing programs that use music as a vehicle for social change, as well as blazing new paths. I want everyone, regardless of background, to have a positive and meaningful interaction with music, and I am committed to making that a reality.”

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“Longy appeals to me because of the school’s commitment to progress and the opportunities to engage with the community.  

Experience working with others, especially with those from differing backgrounds, is invaluable. It shifts a performer’s lens, expands horizons, and allows for greater collaboration and rich musical possibilities. A music culture that is representative of the communities in which it is presented is so much more meaningful.  

The YOLA National Festival is a truly special experience because, while its only a few weeks, you witness meaningful and tangible growth (both in the students and in yourself). Watching friendships form and relationships growand seeing this translate onstage as the students make music togetheris deeply moving. 

There is SO much to gain from working in these programs. It is an incredibly important part of every musician’s lifenot just people who see themselves going into the field of education. All musicians find themselves as teachers at some point, whether it be in private lessons, masterclasses, sectionals, rehearsals, etc.  

I also seek to uplift women in fields where they have been historically underrepresented: brass performance and composition. For my undergrad thesis, I commissioned five new works for trumpet by emerging female composers. I am proud to champion this cause and plan to continue working toward long-overdue, positive change in these fields.  

I look forward to all the collaboration and music making with friends and colleagues at Longy who support this mission!

You can read more about Hollyn in 5 Questions with “I Care If You Listen!

Eliana Osorio Saldarriaga, Soprano. Change Agent.
Hometown: Medellín, Colombia

I know from my own experience that musicians are agents of change. After joining my hometown music academy, I decided to give a series of free Christmas shows, including one for children living with cancer. I clearly remember, though it was many years ago, that I felt the kids’ sadness and hopelessness as soon as I arrived. Before the concert, one boy seemed especially sad, as if he was tired of fighting, as if all the light in his world had been reduced into darkness. As we started singing the first carol, I was trying—through my performance—to let them him and the other kids know that everything was going to be okay, that they needed to keep fighting in order to survive.

I started to see in the child’s eyes the light of hope as we sang. During the performance, his face suddenly changed into one big smile, glowing with happiness. It looked as if all darkness had disappeared, turning into light. I will never forget that moment, when I witnessed the power of music to move the heart of a person, completely. I then understood how music can transform people, and that musicians are indeed agents of change.

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During our present moment, full of uncertainty, we still share common feelings and remain connected to each other. A piece of music that reminds me of this positive connection is “Earth Song” by Frank Ticheli. The piece notes the stormiest times, when the earth cries, when war and abuse of power make us blind, music is here to shelter us and brighten our days. It is a composition of hope and a ray of light.

My father taught me from a young age to persist and never give up. I love a phrase he always says to me: “we already have the NO, let’s go for the YES.” He’s the person who most inspired me to follow my musical path. He was a musician in his youth and when I was a child, he’d gather his siblings at our home to play music together. During those times, I felt the warmth and pure emotion that music projects when it’s played from the heart. Since that moment, I wanted to be a singer—then and for the rest of my life.

My goal is to learn everything that I possibly can to be a complete, well-rounded, and mature musician. The Longy Vocal Studies program will not only prepare me for a life in music but will do so with love and patience.

Longy welcomes people from all over the world, which will expand my horizons. I would like to share my knowledge, my voice, my advice, my happiness, my support, my language, and my Colombian traditions with my new classmates. I also look forward to learning a lot from my new colleagues and their various cultures—I always have an open mind.

In short, I feel that Longy is the perfect place for me. From the beginning, before I even applied, they were warm and attentive, calling me in person to answer every question with great kindness. I have also seen how their students create a supportive and inclusive family. That is what I have always sought—even if I am away from my family and my land, I know I will feel at home.

Tyler James, Cello
Hometown: Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA

“Longy is the right fit for me because of the intimate conservatory environment it provides and the noticeable kindness amongst its students and administration, and the quality of Longy’s faculty.

My favorite job was probably being on the national tour of a Broadway production. I got to work with so many talented musicians, actors and dancers! My year on tour  reminded me not only of the joy of music in my life, but also the importance of bringing music to the lives of others.

Seeing the impact this production had on 2,000 people every night inspired me.  Audience members filled the house to see important stories being told on the big stage. It was an exhilarating experience to say the least.



Visit Tyler James’ Website 

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“As a young person, I worked on a ranch in a tiny town in Virginia in exchange for music lessons. My least favorite chore was cleaning the roof of the barn, which was covered in spiders. You’d get up on this 8-foot ladder with a broom and some goggles and just hope you don’t fall off! 

In addition to my performing career, I’ve taught at El Sistema-like programs and worked in Concert Offices at various festivals. I enjoy working with people, whether it’s teaching or being part of a team—I take pride in my work ethic and kindness toward others.  

Our tour community sought to be good citizens on the road—volunteering at food pantries and making hundreds of meals for communities in need across the US. The pit musicians also developed a program for local elementary school orchestras to give young people an introduction to playing on Broadway. 

I hope to take everything I learned from my time with the show to be an agent of change as my own journey with the cello pushes onward at Longy.

Emmanuel Ramirez, Jazz Guitar
Hometown: San Francisco, California, USA

Emmanuel is an electric guitarist and composer, by way of violin (age 9), piano (age 10) and video games. He received his first guitar at age 11 and developed a true passion. “What appealed to me about jazz was that it challenged me as a listener and a player but retained the vibrancy of spirit found in the blues, gospel, and R&B. Over time I began to infuse my music with more Latin and Classical traditions, while also finding new sonic ground in my trio. Simply put, it was great fun!

I learned that the changes I needed to make to keep improving as a musician—be patient, be a better listener, be more disciplined, and find joy and beauty in everyday life—were the same needed to be a better person overall. Practice is not just about flawless execution. All those hours spent refining our art help us make deep connections and a difference in people’s lives. These qualities enable me to connect with both bandmates and audiences.”


Visit Emmanuel Ramirez’s website.

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“Last semester at Berklee, my jazz ensemble played standards and showtunes at Susan Balis Assisted Living Home in Boston. After our weekly performance wed stay to connect with the audience; I met Barbara during one of those visits. We usually sat next to each other, watching the other ensembles perform before it was my turn to take the stage. I would often hear her singing, clapping, and dancing in her wheelchair. She was the kind of engaged audience member I hope for during any show.  

I was often surprised by how elated and energized Barbara and her neighbors were—they would sing spontaneously, and we’d join with our instruments in an impromptu jam. To share this joy of music is meaningful for musicians and our audience. 

Although we were interpreting jazz standards in our own non-standard way, we went in with the intention of connecting with our audience. I realized that it is not necessary to sacrifice artistic integrity to reach a broad audience. I wanted people to feel included even if they were not jazz listeners; it just takes ingenuity and intention. 

Although virtuosity remains one of my main goals, my list has expanded to include working as an active jazz musician and teaching at the University level in the U.S. or abroad. Teaching young musicians—especially those for whom English is not a first language—will help me develop the skills to create my own programs once I leave Longy. I would like to develop programming geared and tailored toward immigrant communities and others who would not have access to music education otherwise. I personally benefitted from music lessons at a young age and I believe this is my time to make a difference for others.

Ellie MacPhee, Teacher Education
Hometown: Greenville, South Carolina, USA

“Music is incomparably humanizing,” offers Ellie MacPhee, who will be joining the first class of Longy’s new one-year Master of Music in Music Education program this fall.

Ellie grew up in South Carolina and began her path as a musician with traditional folk and bluegrass tunes, which propelled her to study classical violin. She has integrated her strong convictions about prison reform and community engagement—with her own artistry and leadership—to make a serious impact.

“I spent time doing outreach performances in the summer through ENCORE Chamber Music. During my sophomore year at Oberlin Conservatory, I attended a lecture about choir programs inside the prison systems; this inspired me to brainstorm ideas about how to involve strings in this important work.”

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To combine these two interests I felt passionately about, I directed a concert series at a nearby medium-security prison, Grafton Correctional Institution. I was struck by how deeply the inmates listened, and how profound it is to bring music to people from a variety of backgrounds.

Witnessing firsthand how prisons treat people as barely human—it became increasingly important to me to share music with the prison community.”

For more information about this issue, I recommend reading The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander and Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing by Ruth Wilson Gilmore, both of which were highly influential in my journey.”

Clara Liera, Piano. Mentor.
Hometown: Walnut, California, USA

“I have always wanted to be a performer and a mentor to others. Having learned from incredible teachers myself, I wish to contribute and give back to my community.

When I was young, I was not taught to read music properly: no notes, keys, nor time signatures. It wasn’t until I moved from Indonesia to the US at age 13 that I discovered how crucial musical notation was! Through effort, patience, and love, my teachers were able to open my eyes to a whole new world. I became sensitive to the significance of each nuance and the enormous effect of the smallest notation.

The process was not easy and my teachers’ persistence and trust in me means more than words could ever describe. These teachers are the people I most admire—and I wish to inspire positive change, as they do.”

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“I am the first trained musician in my family. I took piano lessons as a child to pass the time—but nobody expected that, after reading Beethoven’s biography in elementary school, my childish remark “I want to become a pianist like Beethoven!” would bring me to where I am today.   

I recognize the power of music to positively affect listeners. I’ve witnessed music lifting the soul of a dear friend during a time of depression. I also want to extend my heart through music, and create space for human connection. I know how it feels to not belong, and what it takes to overcome that feeling of isolation. Music does not need to be perfect to make this kind of difference, but it must be sincere and heart-felt.   

I value my friendships and the ability to create art in other realmsfood, painting, or writing. But in the end, music is my true passion. It nourishes me. It helps me make sense of life and understand how I can live to my fullest potential. 

Between my undergrad and grad auditions, I have seen many different musical environments. I do not seek just another place that will give me another degree. I seek a place where I can truly be nurtured while exploring my areas of passion.   

In keeping with that, Longy left a deep impression through the kind and caring faculty and students I have met. Longy offers what I need to grow into the musician I want to become. All I can say to other prospective students is: this school offers a completely unique environment and community that you must experience to fully understand. Give it a shot!

Sam Smith, Jazz Bass
Hometown: Skaneateles, New York, USA

I have always believed that music can help heal people. My mom was a music therapist for most of her life, and she has told me many stories of how music transforms the lives of her clients, including students living with disabilities. Though it might take months to reach certain goals with her practice, the families of these students would express they were overjoyed with their progress over time.

My mom often speaks of an instance when she played a Bach Cello Suite for an elderly man who had not spoken a word in years. He unexpectedly got up and told her to stop; he wanted to hear some disco instead! She brought in a CD player and started to play disco, as requested, and he started dancing—it turns out he was a Vaudeville dancer back in the day! After hearing how music could make a person who hadn’t spoken or moved much in years get up and dance, I started to think about how my music could move people.

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When I started gigging, I would play festivals around Syracuse to raise money for young musicians who couldn’t afford lessons or instruments, and to benefit organizations that provided music in the community. It wasn’t until I moved to Boston in 2016 that I realized I could have an even broader impact with my music.

I started to play with other musicians who prioritized our community’s needs. We began donating album sales to homeless shelters and playing festivals to raise money and awareness for people hurt by gentrification in the Greater Boston Area. It feels amazing to play for a great cause, especially when everyone in the audience is singing and dancing along to the music.

I’ve been truly inspired by three bassists: Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, Charles Mingus, and Scott LaFaro. To someone just starting out, I would say: Listen to the greats! Study what they’re doing, study what their inspirations are, study the history of the music they play, and most importantly, play what you study. You can practice and study all you want, but music is meant to be heard. If you put in the work and enjoy it, nothing can go wrong.

I am a very driven person who enjoys learning. I chose Longy because I wish to further my knowledge and exploration of jazz. I look forward to playing with other talented students and learning more about its theory and fascinating history. I can’t wait to grow my musical network in the city of Boston and become the successful musician I want to be!


Lauren Florek, Soprano
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois, USA

Authenticity and honesty are essential to communicating the intentions behind the music—and how I want the audience to feel during a performance. 

The moment my career goals crystallized was Musica nelle Marche’s summer program in Urbino, Italy, where I studied La Bohème’s Mimi and performed her aria Donde lieta usci. I’m always amazed that people can relate to this opera from over a hundred years ago, in another language, but it’s because music has the power to share stories and messages in a way that makes them feel immediate and relevant.

By the third performance, I connected to Mimi in a way I never had before—it felt very natural, as if I were just showing another part of myself. Afterward, the audience and my teachers told me how much the experience affected them emotionally and how genuine my embodiment of the character was. Before that night, I had never felt my impact on an audience in this way—it makes the work really fulfilling!

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I want every performance to have this kind of meaningful impact; this drives me and inspires me to go further in my career. I take a holistic approach to my music, and always seek to add some of myself to every performance. And when learning any piece, I challenge myself to find inspiration in my own life, to genuinely channel each character.  

To create a deep physical connection in my performances, I have also been studying dance, including ballet at the Joffrey Ballet and Modern Dance at DePaul with Lin Khan. Learning how to express myself emotionally in this purely physical medium helps me incorporate my entire body in performancesand take command of the space on stage.  

I chose Longy to continue my graduate studies and refine my craft so that I can continue to affect audiences in such meaningful ways. The small class sizes and individual attention from world-class faculty is a perfect fit for me, to grow as a communicator and performer. 

I also plan to become more involved in outreach, which is one of Longy’s strengthssharing classical music in communities that do not have easy access to it and raising awareness of nonwestern music and music by composers of color. I am currently studying Filipino folk songs with the help of family members who are native Tagalog speakers. 

Danny Rivera, Baritone. Activist.
Hometown: Boston, Massachusetts, USA

The artist’s role in society is THE reason I was drawn to Longy.

Art has given me the freedom I need to express myself and what I believe in. It isn’t just a product of creative thought and ideas but is also a world-changing tool. Though art can seemingly stand apart from the world, it can also address worldly issues and give voice to the cries of the people living in it.

Leading up to Longy, my four years at the Boston Arts Academy (BAA) were not only focused on my development as a musician but also as an artist-scholar-citizen—aiming to be successful in a professional music career while being engaged as a member of a democratic society.

My sophomore and junior year I held open dialogues at the Haley House Bakery and Cafe in Dudley Square (now renamed Nubian Square) on mass incarceration. I used these nights to create a platform for victims—and family members—impacted by institutional racism, enabling them to express their feelings and share testimonies on how they have overcome a system that has disenfranchised them.

After submitting a proposal to the school, I received a grant to further expand this platform and incorporate more art into the healing process, specifically for Black and Latino men of color. The new event included original music and spoken word pieces from Boston-based artists who had been affected by these issues.

January of my senior year, I wrote a song for Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, based on her first speech in Congress. In the song, I addressed relevant social issues, such as the impact of crucial decisions made by the current administration I also spoke about those in positions of power, who stand in opposition and dedicate their lives to making positive change in our communities, just like Ayanna Pressley.

I hoped this song would be heard and bring unity to our community. “We’re On Our Way Up” realized that dream—as it was formally recognized by many listeners including the Congresswoman herself.

Elise Hill, Sax. Clarinet
Hometown: Norco, California, USA

Elise Hill is a saxophonist, clarinetist, bass clarinetist, contrabass clarinetist, and Longy student from Norco, California. With an interest in music at an early age, Elise joined the school band in eighth grade, originally on clarinet. Music helped her find her identity as an adolescent, recognizing its ability to create a safe space to feel, emote, and exist in one’s truth.  

I’ve been teaching children clarinet since high school while working two jobs to fund myfull-time undergraduate education. After moving homes several times in my younger years, I see music as a stabilizing presence in her life at that time. It wasn’t until I picked up the clarinet for the first time that I found something that I truly loved, and it changed the trajectory of my life. I’m inspired by the freedom of making music unapologetically and its ability to express a person’s true identity. 

I came to Longy to learn more about how to use my talents to help create a voice for others as I develop and refine my own. Music helped my find my identity as an adolescent, as a safe space to feel, emote, and exist in my own truth. I was inspired to become a musician by a Lady Gaga concert, during which I felt seen for the first time. This wouldn’t have been possible without the performing artist’s ability to create a space of safety and belonging for her audience to celebrate as individuals and as one. 

At Longy, I can connect my musical ambitions, values, and social change goals directly with my education. I believe in individuality and expression through art and music. My message to future students, musicians, and professionals: do not lose sight of what makes you unique because sometimes when you least expect it, it can make all the difference. 

Qudrat Wasefi, Trumpet. Activist.
Hometown: Farah, Afghanistan

Trumpeter and Longy student Qudrat Wasefi identifies as a patriot, activist, and defender of women’s and children’s rights, seeking to use his music to raise awareness for societal issues and to encourage social change.

I believe music has the power to make a profound impact on people in distress. It can provide joy, comfort, relief, hope, and love. My inspiration comes from a desire to help people in need and to raise my voice against social injustice.

Born to an impoverished family in an isolated desert in western Afghanistan, my journey to become a musician was turbulent. It began overnight when, at five years old, I was taken to an orphanage in Kabul that changed my life forever. This lovely enclave run by Afghan Children’s Education and Care Organization (AFCECO) was my beacon of hope, where we were taught tolerance, respect for diversity, and the values of integrity, honesty, and caring. And most importantly, I was allowed to learn and practice music.

In August of 2021, I was preparing to release an album when the Taliban took Afghanistan. The Afghanistan National Institute of Music, where I taught, was shut down as part of the Taliban’s battle against music, and my work was abruptly halted. When I think of the countless other people that have also been suffering from the inhumane actions of the Taliban since then, it motivates me to work even harder to do something positive for them.

I returned to the orphanage where I spent my childhood, this time to direct a children’s choir. I composed and wrote several songs for the children to perform with strong social themes, many of which were written for the album that was disrupted by the Taliban takeover. Making music with children who are experiencing a childhood like my own brings me so much joy. Music has been a nourishing and motivating presence in my life, and I believe all children deserve the opportunity to express themselves artistically. I am inspired to see a new generation raise their voices through music.

At Longy, I found an environment where deep connections are established between students, faculty, staff, and the entire Boston community. It is not merely the arts you will learn at Longy, but also the skills to build a career that will shape the future. At Longy, we are taught to make an impact with our music, and I look forward to making my mark on the world.