Yale Common App Essay: Musical Identity

Yale Common App Essay: Musical Identity


Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

I remember my first show, which I still consider the greatest day of my life:  The torn red carpet underneath my kit was accented by the unmistakable aroma and sight of broken drum sticks littered around the riser.  My sharpie-scribbled setlist was carefully blue taped next to my stool as the repeatedly flashing disco-esque lights and fog machine busied the stage.  I was 13 years old and had been writing music with a group of slightly older guys for the past few months.  This small restaurant’s time-worn stage was my canvas for the next 45 minutes, as I unconsciously fused into the drummer I now am for the first time.  I let reason exit as I found myself using walls as drums and twirled my sticks in second nature as I stood up to play during solos.   I didn’t mind that there were only 12 people in the restaurant.  I didn’t mind that some of them were simply enjoying their greasy chicken appetizers instead of watching the show.  I was solely focused on enjoying myself and playing the best music that I possibly could.  This was an independent world and I loved it.

I play the drums; I’ve played them for as long as I can remember, from weekly lessons starting in 2nd grade, to county honor bands, and currently bars and night clubs.  Music has always been an intrinsic part of my daily schedule, and I am forever grateful.  Music, especially composition, has continually spurred my intellectual capacity.  For example, I tap my feet whenever seated.  It’s an involuntary reaction to the countless rhythms and musical styles forever floating about my mind.  Unconsciously tapping out bossa nova allows me not only to focus and structure my thoughts and ideas, but to constantly stay alert.  This forever pulsating beat within me pushes me to achieve efficiency in my life.  Even in the mundane activity of driving to school, the tapping of samba on my black leather steering wheel gives me a sense of constantly moving and growing, not only as a musician, but as a person.  

It’s the “inexhaustible variety of life”, as F. Scott Fitzgerald once put it, that inspires me to strive for greatness.  It’s the idea that you can blend distinct styles of music.  The idea that jazz can be fused into modern rock songs while using a pair of timpani mallets and some wire brushes to create something undeniably new.  Some of my favorite moments are spent in my basement just improvising with the phrasing and fusing of cultural beats and rhythms.  This cross-culturalization has permeated into my life in other ways, as I find myself the product of both Mexican and American backgrounds.  Fusions of ideas and traditions inspire me to keep exploring and experiencing more of life.

My life can be summarized as the constant intertwining of distinct cultures.  I spend my Saturdays in dive bars and Hollywood clubs, continuing to express my passion for creating and performing, while devoting the rest of my energies to sport and academics.  Experiencing and interacting with others of varying backgrounds is my true inspiration and I hope to one day be a part of such a hotbed of diversity.

Although my ultimate goal is to one day work in the foreign service and to become an impetus for change in the political arena, I will still continue to be the drummer I’ve always been.  I wish to form a band in my college years and continue to play shows while enjoying my time in the classroom.  Like different musical inspirations, my identities all forge together to reveal who I truly am, not just a drummer, not just an athlete, but someone who intends to grow in his respective identities and to sculpt even more facets of being.

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