Alumni That Faced Something Scary, And How They Got Through It

Life can be scary, especially when you find yourself facing a challenge, or something you can’t control. Thankfully, music and community can be a great resource in getting through those difficult times. 

This Halloween, we talked to some alumni from The People’s Music School about a time they faced something that scared them, and how they got through it. Read on to hear about their experiences, and their advice for anyone facing a similar situation.

Elaina Huang:

Finding Your Voice

When I was a bit younger, around my freshman year of high school, I had gotten to the point where I was absolutely terrified of speaking in public, especially in a classroom setting. Difficult experiences in elementary school (repeatedly being called out by teachers, yelled at, and being critiqued in a negative way) caused me to be extra cautious with how I spoke to other people, even with friends and family. I would experience intense anxiety when interacting with my classmates and teachers especially. What if I said something wrong? 

I worried a lot about how other people would respond to me, or what people would think about me as a person. I felt that it would just be less stressful to stay quiet, even when I really wanted to share something with others. 

I found that music helped me lessen my fear of public speaking. Musical experiences like being in orchestra, playing in chamber groups, and peer-tutoring all helped ease my social anxiety in ways that were often really fun. I strongly feel that learning how to play an instrument in high school slowly helped me become more confident in myself and my voice, as well. 

It helped immensely that most of the musical ensembles I participated in were nonjudgmental spaces, especially in my school’s orchestra and at The People’s Music School. Those ensembles gave me a safe space to be myself in front of others, and I felt like my musical voice was really valued in the groups I participated in. 

I loved that I could come to class and just play music, and that mistakes were allowed. The best thing was that I often didn’t have to speak or use words to express my feelings and emotions. I could use music to communicate with others instead.

My experiences with music in high school showed me that spaces do exist where it is safe to make mistakes and just be myself around others. I’m less afraid of being assertive and speaking up for myself in group settings. 

More importantly, I’ve learned to accept my fears as they are and take things one step at a time. My anxiety with public speaking and performing music aren’t completely gone. I still face them regularly today, but I’ve definitely come a long way. I’m much more at peace with speaking and performing publicly.

For anyone who also experiences social anxiety and fears public speaking, I promise that you are not alone in your struggles. It matters so much that you’re just trying to do the best you can. It’s completely okay to take things slowly and at your own pace. 

Elaina Huang is a Music (General Studies) major at North Park University, where they are set to graduate in 2023. They are a member of Pour Clara Ensemble, Hi-C’s Duo, and the North Park University Orchestra. Elaina plays viola, guitar and ukulele. They also stage manage for school music events. 

In their spare time, Elaina loves taking care of their houseplants and gardening, as well as cooking, baking (especially making treats for other people) and cuddling with their dog Macchiato.

The People’s Music School, 2019

Allison Leon:

Embracing What’s Important to You

Attending a large, predominantly-white institution was very scary to me. I felt very out of place a lot of the time. I suffered from a lot of imposter syndrome my first year in college and found myself struggling to find my footing. 

I found my way through college by finding my community. An upperclassman I knew encouraged me to participate in a Latinx cultural show, and I soon found myself involved in several performances. I found so much support throughout my college career in this Latinx community, and it led me to pursue a lot of involvement in student life. 

Ultimately, attending a large, predominantly-white university really taught me the value of community and appreciating your cultural roots. In spaces where you may not feel welcome, reminding yourself of those things that are most important to your being can be grounding and uplifting. 

To anyone facing a similar situation, I want to say: Don’t lose those things that are core to you. Find people who celebrate them with you. Celebrate them yourself! You have just as much right to occupy space as anyone else. 

Allison Leon is a Project Assistant with Chicago-based law firm Applegate & Thorne-Thomsen. Allison attended University of Chicago, and graduated in 2021 with a Public Policy major and Human Rights minor. While at The People’s Music School, she studied piano.

Most recently, Allison has been awarded the Howell Murray Alumni Association Award and the Community Service Award on behalf of Latinas Promoviendo Comunidad/Lambda Pi Chi Sorority, Inc.

The People’s Music School, 2017

Karina Pinduisaca:

Developing The Tools to Grow

Growing up, my household was a very toxic environment and it manifested into difficult and stressful moments for me at a young age. 

During this time, I remember that The People’s Music School was just starting out at Hibbard Elementary school and I could see all my friends pick up instruments. After seeing their first performance, I joined The People’s Music School because I loved the sound of the music and concerts that I would see my peers participate in and I wanted to be a part of it. 

Later on I realized that being a part of The People’s Music School and playing music, going to rehearsals at all hours of the week and weekends was a coping mechanism for me. It was a way for me to get out of the house, get out of the toxic environment and focus my time, energy, and growth on something else. 

Ironically I wasn’t as shy of a kid as I thought, I did a lot of different shows at my Daycare Center where I was front and center, but the whole experience made me live a double life of sorts. I became good at hiding what was happening at home and created this persona of being a goofball with my friends and cracking jokes. It was exhausting, but I don’t think I realized that when I was younger. 

The first day I was allowed to take my viola home I was practicing almost everyday for an hour or two and soon enough I joined the YOURS orchestra where I started playing challenging music. Most importantly I was in an environment that pushed and challenged me instead of slowing me down. 

The People’s Music School had a huge impact on how I got through those difficult years at home. Learning music has a lot of discipline with posture, learning to read music, practicing on your own, taking care of your instrument, etc. It teaches kids a lot and we don’t realize it! It’s a responsibility and that was the type of teaching and shaping I needed in order to grow as a person no matter how old I was. It taught me some great life lessons and did some exposure therapy for my stage fright.

The People’s Music School has given me so much that I still remember and cherish those concerts, rehearsals, summer schedules, trips etc. After my experience and engagement with music I picked up the “Things happen for a reason” mentality because if I hadn’t joined The People’s Music School I don’t know how I would have coped with the situation at home. 

I think for anyone going through a difficult time or similar situation they should take the time to reflect and understand their situation and why it scares them. It is perfectly normal to be scared and it’s a time where they should practice validating their own feelings and not shutting themselves down. They also need to know that there is something equally extraordinary and thrilling that they haven’t had the chance to know yet. The time may not be now and it may not even be music, but they’ll definitely know that extraordinary thing when they find it. 

Karina Pinduisaca is an office administrator at Barry Callebaut, a Swiss chocolate company with offices in Chicago. In 2021, Karina graduated from Depauw University with a degree in Spanish. She studied viola in her time at The People’s Music School.

In spring of 2020, Karina studied abroad in Stockholm, Sweden, where she studied Forensic Psychology and Swedish Language and Culture until the pandemic hit. The experience was enlightening, and greatly encouraged her cultural and academic growth.

The People’s Music School, 2017

Want to give more students the tools to get through difficult times? Be sure to donate today to sponsor a child’s music education.