Rising Voices Award winner badge.

Music, through the eyes of a teenager

May 19, 2021 5:22 PM

Photo Essays

From my Spotify playlist, with no liked songs or followed artists, you’d probably think that I’m just a bot or an abandoned account. Although I only mention the most boring songs when asked for music recs, music has managed to find a way into my life and into my heart.

One of the first vivid memories I have of music, or just in general, is with CDs. I remember playing with the CD stacker stand, moving CDs like they were one of those stacking rings toys. My mom usually played “Paris by Night,” and even if I couldn’t understand their sweet Vietnamese melodies, I always “oohed” and “aahed” at their pretty ao dai and even prettier voices.

I was only 6 when I started learning how to play the piano, and as my family and I moved to various towns and cities those classes were the one thing that remained constant. In that way, my sister and I embodied the Asian stereotype of most children playing piano — but it was genuinely pretty fun for me. After all, it was the perfect excuse if I wasn’t in the mood to play with my friends, and there’s always the excitement that comes with performing to an audience, even if my lack of skills caused some parents to cringe.

Not long after came dance. I used to really hate it, complaining about how long it took for my mom to do my makeup for recitals, how itchy my costume was, or how bright the lights were on stage, but it wasn’t until last year that I realized I enjoyed it. I thought that the choreography for my contemporary dance was super cool, and since I was with the older kids, that meant I was one of the best. (Spoiler alert: I wasn’t, but getting to show off my flexibility was enough for me.)

On the way home from a long day of school, intense piano lessons, tiring dance classes, my family and I would always turn on the radio. It was kind of annoying because after every single song an announcer would always say something about having no ads, which clearly wasn’t true, because why were they talking!? And, the songs they played were repetitive. But last year, my family got a new car, and for the first time, we were able to control the songs being played.

The summer before 7th grade, my mother was met with a difficult decision: should I join choir, band, or orchestra? She ignored those options, so she created her own: piano! When she put that onto the signup form, I was placed into the viola. I know I know, the viola?! That was my reaction too because it’s a pretty well-known fact that the violas are the laughing stock of strings instruments, but it’s actually not complete torture. Since there are only a few violas, I’m almost guaranteed to be promoted to a higher orchestra at the end of the year.

And now, of course, one of the most popular music streaming services. I got into Spotify after I received a new computer for online learning and when my sister forced me to download the app. But, Spotify has been useful and fun to have. First and foremost, I like just being able to listen to music! Secondly, when I joined a club as part of their officer board, they wanted each officer to add a few songs of their own to their club playlist on Spotify, and it was cool being able to collaborate and see who added what song.

Finally, lo-fi. I’ve listened to lo-fi before, but I only found out about “Virtual Cottage” a few weeks ago. You get to listen to some relaxing lo-fi beats while having a mini-study buddy nodding along with the music aside you. I watched an Instagram video about the game, and although I struggled a lot with downloading it, I think all of the time I spent repeatedly completing CAPTCHAs was more than worth it.

Music is everywhere, whether it be the person singing their hearts out at the subway, the birds chirping in the morning, or the pop songs playing in the mall. Even though I am most likely what pops up when you search, “music connoisseur antonym,” I have accepted that music will follow me wherever I go, and that it’s not a bad thing.