The Road to Success

Students discover and develop their musical passions while adjusting to quarantine


Photo courtesy of Marina Buendia

Over 23 million creators publish their work on Spotify and SoundCloud, hoping to be discovered by new fans or labels and become the “next big thing.” Paly students make up only a small fraction of the artists seeking a career in the cutthroat music industry. 

Senior Marina Buendia has had a passion for music her whole life and plans on making a career out of the industry while attending the Berklee College of Music in the fall. She hopes to major in songwriting and minor in vocal performance. Like other aspiring artists, Buendia had the chance to focus more on music during Covid and online school. “It’s been way easier with online school just because I have all my equipment with me at all times. It’s easier now to work on my creative stuff,” Buendia said.

Having plenty of downtime during quarantine also gave Buendia ample opportunity for songwriting. “I think [quarantine] definitely has inspired me, just because I feel like I’m alone with my thoughts more, which is when it’s easiest for me to write music.” Buendia said. 

Sophomore Atticus Kuhn has been playing viola in the school’s orchestra for five years. When he first started to play, Kuhn fell in love with the tone of the viola. “The middle voice can better relate to all the parts of the ensemble,” Kuhn said.  

Among the many genres of music, Kuhn loves classical and Baroque, and sometimes romantic music. He expresses his passion for music as a member of the orchestra. “I enjoy the experience of playing with other people in an ensemble setting,” Kuhn said. Although it’s still early to think about a college major, he hasn’t ruled out applying to some music schools.

During the pandemic, Kuhn has not been able to attend school orchestra in person; instead, Kuhn has been pre-recording his playing. Outside of school, however, it’s a different story. “I still do some in person socially distanced ensembles, which is more true to the spirit [of music],” Kuhn said.

I think [quarantine] definitely has inspired me, just because I feel like I’m alone with my thoughts more, which is when it’s easiest for me to write music.”

— Marina Buendia, senior

Unlike Buendia and Kuhn, Paly sophomore Justin Gu began his career in music playing piano when he was very young, but not because he wanted to. “The only reason why I play piano is because I was forced to,” Gu said. “I still don’t really want to play piano.” 

Gu moved from the piano to the trumpet in elementary school and moved to the French horn in middle school after his cousin recommended it to him. But as Gu transitioned to Highschool, he stopped playing in band. “It just started to get repetitive and boring, because I don’t like performing under pressure,” Gu said. 

However, Gu still enjoyed music and wanted to play for fun and after leaving band, Gu continued to pursue music at his church where he led worship. Gu picked up guitar after his youth group leader taught him. “It just seemed to fit my idea of what I wanted to do with music,” Gu said. Since playing the guitar, Gu doesn’t worry about practicing repeatedly and he found guitar to be a nice balance between musicality and relaxation for himself. “I like it when it’s casual, because I don’t like preparing for big concerts or anything,” Gu said. “I do my homework and then whenever I feel like it, I just play guitar for fun.” 

Besides playing music, Gu also enjoys listening to songs, especially pop. Currently his favorite song is “Lovely” by Billie Eilish and Khalid and he plays it every time he picks up the guitar. 

Although music plays different roles in the students’ lives today, one thing is certain, it will become an indispensable part of our future, whether in our professional life as in the case of Buendia and Kuhn or in our personal life of Gu’s.

Whether you listen or play music to help you study, relax or focus, like the air is vital to human bodies, music is the oxygen for our soul. As we each have listened to a variety of music in school and at home, music has nurtured our minds for as long as we can remember.  

High school is a key time to discover your passions and strengths as well as your struggles and dislikes. Students who find the time to balance their school and musical life are able to rule out whether they want to pursue music as a career or follow a different path. 

Music fosters bonds between listeners across the globe, and not only enriches our lives, but defines our character and is a means to express oneself.