Alumni Spotlight: Elaina H.
“The most important (and possibly the most difficult) advice I can give you is that the music doesn’t need to be perfect. You don’t need to be perfect. You are human, and that matters first.”
Elaina graduated high school in 2019 and is now a student at North Park University, where she is continuing her music studies. Although her instrument of choice is the Viola, her musical influences span far and wide, and she has a couple recommendations for you as well! In this installment of our Alumni Spotlight series, Elaina takes a look back and shares her musical journey:
Looking back, what kind of music were you listening to when you first started at People’s? What kind of music really impacted you as a kid?
Listening to musical theater definitely inspired my early and current favorite genres of music. My siblings introduced me to musicals like The Sound of Music, Wicked, and Fiddler on The Roof when I was really young, and the music from these shows were some of my earliest memories. The music from those productions helped to tell the stories that happened on stage, which was something I really loved. I would say also that musical theater music is a lovely combination of classical and contemporary genres of music, and it doesn’t have to be strictly one or the other.
How did you music tastes change as you grew older (or did they stay the same)?
I would say that my music tastes constantly change, but I always end up going back to what I liked to listen to when I was younger. When I was younger, I always listened to different things depending on what I was in the mood for. When I started high school, I listened to a lot of Twenty-One Pilots and Panic! At the Disco. Right now, I really love lo-fi. In general, I would say that my favorite genres are alternative, indie, musical theater, and lo-fi. For classical music, I listen to a lot of romantic-era pieces and chamber music.
What are you listening to now? Is there anything you would recommend?
I’ve definitely got to recommend some viola pieces. Everyone should listen to Rebecca Clarke’s Viola Sonata. Another piece that I love from her is Morpheus for Viola and Piano. I’ve also been listening to musicals on repeat again, especially these three: Next to Normal, Fun Home, and Hamilton.
How has music become a part of your life?
I felt so lost when I started high school, and one of the few things that brought me happiness and gave me a sense of purpose was playing the viola. It gave me a safe space to express myself and be emotional. Playing in an orchestra, taking lessons, or just playing music for fun with friends opened my mind up to experiences that I didn’t know were possible. I got to meet people that I would have never crossed paths with if we hadn’t played together in a music ensemble. In the midst of my mental health battles, having music in my life encouraged me to keep going and not give up. It reminded me that I had a future when I couldn’t see one. Music changed my life forever and it keeps opening so many doors for me.
I was also blessed with amazing music teachers in high school, at TPMS, and at ChiMOP. I’m studying music in college because I was really inspired by them! Someday I want to be a music teacher or even start my own music school. I really want to be of service to others and share the opportunities that music gave me. I want others to be able to experience the same support that music gave me when I needed it the most.
#PassItOn: A piece of advice, a story, or a song – anything that you would like to share with the current class of young musicians.
The most important (and possibly the most difficult) advice I can give you is that the music doesn’t need to be perfect. You don’t need to be perfect. You are human, and that matters first. A perfect performance, getting all the right notes, and playing the hardest pieces possible can be really awesome, but absolutely none of those things matter if it means sacrificing your happiness, or if it makes you hate the experience of playing music.
I’ve been struggling with this feeling that all of studying and practicing that I’ve been doing isn’t going to be enough, or that I’m not talented or good enough. I know that so many of my fellow students struggle with this feeling too. I have a habit of setting extremely high music goals, and that causes me to be perfectionistic and judgmental. Studying music in college makes me feel as if I basically live, breathe, and eat music. Music school is a fantastic environment for creative inspiration, but personally, it also brings out some harmful traits that I know aren’t good for me. It’s a really difficult mindset to change, but I’m working on it.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Just a quote from The Little Prince:
“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry