YOLA Alumna Juliana Rodriguez Returns to Mentor

Having recently completed her second year at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, YOLA alumna Juliana Rodriguez relies on the fundamentals she learned at YOLA to keep her going through the difficult task of earning a music performance degree at one of the nation’s top conservatories. She also returned to YOLA this summer as a mentor at YOLA Summer Camp to help guide her peers.

Having attended as both a student and now a mentor, you have a unique perspective on YOLA Summer Camp. How was your experience this year?

I always come out of camp just super, super refocused and passionate again with music. I sound a little corny, but it's the truth. I get to work with the younger kids. I learn so much from them. I learn about myself. It's always such a great experience, being able to work, being in nature, not constantly hearing police sirens and fireworks. It was such an amazing two weeks, and I'm really looking forward to next year.

When you say you’ve learned so much from YOLA’s students—what have they taught you?

I really do love working with YOLA students specifically. I feel so connected to these kids, and I want to be there for them as much as I can. Sometimes I think that I can’t work with kids, I’m too impatient! But the truth is I feel so privileged to be working with them. They come to me looking for help with how you do this bowing or how to approach this piece of music.

I see them going through the same things I went through as a musician, and here I am, a couple years later, I'm not that much older than them, but it reminds me of when I was in that place and situation, and it helps inspire me to keep going.

Speaking of keeping going, you’ve just finished up your second year of conservatory—how is it going?

Not going to lie, it’s been tough. This year was real rough for me, balancing music and classes, and piano and singing. I had a little trouble this year. But at the end of the day, I came out strong. My teacher in my first year left to teach at another school, so I was nervous to start with a new advisor. It ended up being the best thing ever, because he’s such an amazing player, such an amazing person. He's really understood my background and my struggles, coming from South Central to this conservatory of music.

Every year more and more of YOLA’s graduating seniors are following your lead and studying music. What advice would you give them? What do you wish you had known then?

I wish I knew not to be afraid. Don't be afraid to go out there. Even if you feel like you don't know anything in the field. Just go out, and just do it. That got in the way for me, I thought, “Oh, I don't know any music theory. I don't know any musicianship. I've never taken piano. I barely know any rep.” But don't let that stop you. What really matters is how connected you are with your music and how passionate are and how willing you are to go for it. And that's what keeps me going. 

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