YOLA VOICES: Gizelle Polanco

Gizelle Polanco, a 17-year-old senior at South High School in Torrance, plays cello at YOLA at EXPO. She’s currently applying to colleges and visited Princeton in January with a YOLA string quartet.

Tell me how you chose the cello back in elementary school.

Toward the end of YOLA’s first musicianship class, they do this fair where the teachers play and show you the instruments and then you can ask questions. I thought the cello teacher was really cool. She had a lot of tattoos and piercings. I loved the sound of the cello. It was so deep, the richest-sounding one.

How was the trip to Princeton?

We played this really pretty piece by Alexander Glazunov, a Russian composer. We had a lot of solos in our piece and during every rehearsal some parts were shaky or weren’t all together. But during the performance, it was really awesome. The whole experience just strengthened my love for chamber music. Sometimes it can be a little scary because of how exposed each instrument is.

Will you keep playing cello in college?

I'm applying as a cello performance and psychology major. I love how you can incorporate both into each other. This past year I've really been trying to use psychological concepts to help me gain confidence in performing and auditions. I took AP Psychology at school, and the teacher and I would talk a lot about this concept called positive thinking. Instead of trying to think negatively — "Oh, I don't like how I play this part. I don't like how I always mess this up." — you have to rewrite those thoughts, scratch them out, and form them in a more positive way so that your brain really emphasizes that each time you play it. It really has helped me this past year.

What else have you gotten out of your time in YOLA?

YOLA brings a lot of great opportunities, like when we go to different places and play at different venues. But more than that, it really brings you closer to your community. I go to school in Torrance, so I wasn't as connected to my Los Angeles community, even though I lived there. But that changed and I feel a lot of love for my community because of YOLA.

How do I help?

By making a gift to support the Centennial Campaign today!

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