Exit Interview – Chris Serrano

As the 2016 Donna Coffee Youth Scholarship blogs comes to an end, we thought we’d find out what the experience has been like for our recipients so we asked Chris & Mario to share their thoughts in this fun CTEBVI “exit interview”! 

Are you excited to find out who our 2017 recipient(s) are?!  Check back here or on any of our social media sites when we make our announcement on Sunday, March 12!

Chris Serrano – Exit Interview

Pictured: Chris Serrano with his bass clarinet -- Photo courtesy of: Chris Serrano

Pictured: Chris Serrano with his bass clarinet — Photo courtesy of: Chris Serrano

How did you feel when you won the scholarship?
When I won the scholarship, I was super excited! I immediately began planning how I would go about getting my new instrument and could hardly wait to begin shopping.

What did you use the scholarship money for this year?
I used the scholarship money to buy myself a bass clarinet.

What did you learn and why was it important?
Purchasing the clarinet was important to me because I had been wanting one for a long time but could not scrape together enough money to buy it. So when I won the scholarship, I finally had enough to begin looking around.

How do you feel now that your year as the DCYS recipient is over?
I can hardly believe that the year is almost over! It feels like just a couple months ago when I won the scholarship. How time flies when you’re having fun.

What are three words you can use to describe this experience?
Amazing, grateful, and life-changing

What was your highlight about this year?
The highlight of this year was when I received the package in the mail. I felt so good opening the box and finding a brand new bass clarinet with my name on it.

What did you learn about yourself since receiving the scholarship?
I learned that being a musician allowed me to apply different techniques to all new instruments and have equally good results.

What advice would you give to future DCYS recipients?
Make the most out of your money and enjoy it as much as you can.

What will you miss the most about the blog?
I will miss reflecting on the past months, sharing my latest events, and reading about the awesome adventures that Mario posts.

What do you want people to know about you?
I want people to know that even though I’m blind, I do not let this prevent me from achieving my goals.

Anything else you would like to share?
Thank you again to the DCYS for being so awesome

You have so many fans who want to know what you’re doing and what you’re up to. We would love to contact you from time to time to update us and we’ll post it to our social media accounts. Is this ok?

Time Flies When You’re Having Fun

Pictured: Chris with tour guide -- Photo courtesy of Chris Serrano

Pictured: Chris with tour guide — Photo courtesy of Chris Serrano

2017 is proving to be a great year! I was recently able to get the Sonar CakeTalking studio software for my computer and I will be working with the program in the after-school Sound  Recording class. When I get the audio interface and mixer, I will be able to record external instruments and add them to any projects I am currently working on. I am looking forward to learning how to efficiently and independently compose, produce, and mix my own songs using the software.

Pictured: Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan Macy's niche which reads: "Helen Keller and her lifelong companion Anne Sullivan Macy are interred in the columbarium behind this chapel" both in print and in braille -- Photo by: Chris Serrano

Pictured: Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan Macy’s niche which reads: “Helen Keller and her lifelong companion Anne Sullivan Macy are interred in the columbarium behind this chapel” both in print and in braille — Photo by: Chris Serrano

I still haven’t gotten over my trip to the Capital. People are still asking me questions about what I did! I visited all the monuments and memorials located on the Capital Mall, including the Library of Congress, the Supreme Court, and the Capital Building itself. In addition, I also got my own personal, hands-on tour of the National Cathedral where I visited Helen Keller’s final resting place; her gravestone was in braille which was awesome because I could read it. At Arlington National Cemetery, I visited three presidential tombs and got to witness the changing of the guard over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We also toured a few museums and we attended the women’s march to the White House the day after going to the Inauguration ceremony. The flight back home was insane; our plane had to fly through the storm over LA to land which turned out to be quite exciting.
I had a hotel room all to myself. This included a kingsize bed, 60-inch flat screen TV, mini bar, and a huge bathtub. The room was also equipped with a microwave and fridge that I used often for late night snacks. The thing I miss the most about that room was having my bed magically remade for me every day.

When I got back from Washington, I learned in my jazz band that the music department will be working together with the theater department to put on a show that is supposed to be based on the history of Culver City. The jazz ensemble has volunteered to provide background music. We are currently learning a lot of music that was made famous in movies filmed at MGM and Sonny studios.

I can hardly believe that the year is almost up. How the time flies. Thank you to the Donna Coffee foundation for allowing me to buy my bass clarinet.


Going Home Soon

Pictured: Mario Chitwood swimming -- Photo courtesy of Mario Chitwood

Pictured: Mario Chitwood swimming — Photo courtesy of Mario Chitwood

Hey blog readers,

I hope everyone’s New Year is off to a great start. I have mixed feeling about mine. As you know, I’ve been in Mexico for almost three months! I will be returning home in 2-3 weeks and I’m really excited to get back to California. I am actually ready to start school again even though I know I will have a lot of make up work to do. I am also looking forward to hanging out with all my cousins and finally getting to hold my baby brother Max. I talk to him on the phone but he’s only 2 years old so he mostly just likes to push the buttons. I think he knows that sound irritates me.

Although I am excited to return home, there are some things I will miss about Mexico. I will miss being able to ride in the back of my aunt’s truck. I will definitely miss the amazing fireworks. And I will also miss the many cousins I spent time with here.
I hope in the future they will visit me in California so my mom and I can be their tour guides.

Recently, we went to a public swim center. It was super crowded so I didn’t enjoy it too much. The water was warm though. One pool was actually super hot natural spring water. I only got in up to my knees and stayed in for a couple of minutes. It was good that we got to experience those thermal waters because a lot of locals say they are therapeutic but I don’t really want to go back because the crowd was overwhelming.
One new thing I’ve been doing a lot of is watching cooking tutorials on YouTube. My mom and I have watch a lot of new recipes that we can’t wait to try once we get home.
It will be a great excuse to visit our local spice shop. I like going there because you can taste all the spices before you buy them.

Another new place we recently checked out was the local sports center here in Mexico. There is a huge soccer field, lots of basketball courts, and a track. My great aunt, mom, and I walked about a mile and a half but then my mom wanted to go check out the Zumba class they were offering. Overall, it was a good place to visit and we are planning on going back soon.

Thanks for reading my blog. Hope all is well with Christopher. Until next time.


High Hopes for a New Year

Pictured: Chris Serrano with guitar -- Photo courtesy of Chris Serrano

Pictured: Chris Serrano with guitar — Photo courtesy of Chris Serrano

I am confident that 2017 will be a great year. Already, January was packed with many exciting adventures. Last week, I traveled to Washington DC with my school to go see President Elect Donald Trump be officially sworn into office. This once-in-a-lifetime trip was paid for by the school and provided several opportunities to visit and enjoy historical sights as well as the chance to be a part of the truly monumental inauguration. I also got to meet many other students from all over the country who went on the trip. In addition, this trip provided me a solid excuse for missing a whole week of school! Going on this trip was an excellent way to start the year after a wonderful, but not long enough, winter vacation from school. I took advantage of my two-week break off of school, during which I caught up on sleeping and found ample time to practice my music and learn new songs. You know I had too much time on my hands because I can now play some tunes by Metallica on my clarinet as easily as on guitar. Although, making the transition from vacation back to the regular routine was pretty hard.

In addition to exciting trips and awesome vacations, I’ve also begun to make the long journey toward college preparation. Since my greatest wish is to get into Berklee School of Music, my teachers at the Academy of Music for the Blind have all enthusiastically agreed to help me work toward achieving the set entrance requirements. And although this will mean lots of long and boring work and not much playing this year, the results will be worth the time. I will be learning all of the different scale modes, a bit of music theory, transposing, as well as continuing to work on my improvisation skills.
I am looking forward to an awesome start to a great year. Wishing Mario a happy new year and

hoping he is well.

Making Memories in Mexico 

Pictured: Mario Chitwood and his great-grandmother, Alicia -- Photo courtesy of: Mario Chitwood

Pictured: Mario Chitwood and his great-grandmother, Alicia — Photo courtesy of: Mario Chitwood

Hello friends,

I am still visiting family in Mexico. It is so different here. I have met so many new family members. I have a lot of cousins my age so it’s been fun trying to teach them English. I also met my great grandmother. She loves me and thinks I’m handsome.
On December 11, 2016 I got baptized. Even though the whole ceremony was in Spanish, I still enjoyed the whole event. Afterwards we had a small celebration in my honor. We ate chicken with vegetables and for dessert my mom ordered a costume made cake. It was decorated with a giant white cross and it read Felicidads Mario (Congratulations Mario).
Even though our time here has been enjoyable. The biggest adjustment has been living without internet. We usually go every few days to my Mom’s cousin’s house where there is internet but I miss having access to it everyday. I play some resource management games that require internet and so I’m sad I can’t play as often as I want to.
A few days ago we visited a flea market and I bought a bunch of fireworks. My favorite was called Crackling Saturn Missiles. It was a small square box with 25 missiles tips pointed upward and the fuse was on the corner of the box. When I lit the fuse, seconds later each missile launched out of the box and made whistling sounds and crackling noises. It was awesome! My mom is going to take me back to the flea market to buy more so that on Christmas we can lite some fireworks.
One sad thing that has happened here is that I tried to introduce s’mores to my cousin’s and it didn’t work out as planned. My mom went shopping for the ingredients but wasn’t able to find graham crackers so she substituted for cookies sprinkled with cinnamon. When my cousin’s and I roasted marshmallows then put our s’mores together and took a bite, we did not like the flavor. I was sad that my plan had failed but at least we had fun roasting marshmallows and eating those all by themselves.
Take care blog readers. Until next time!

Ready For the Holidays!

Pictured: Chris Serrano with guitar -- Photo courtesy of Chris Serrano

Pictured: Chris Serrano with guitar — Photo courtesy of Chris Serrano

Overall, November has proved to be a great month! As far as music goes, I’ve spent all month preparing for two shows coming up in early December. I can hardly wait for both of them since they will be performed within the same week!

The first one will take place on Saturday at the Academy of Music for the Blind. For our winter themed concert, we are performing a variety of pieces including some from well-known musicals to famous jazz standards and even some original rock compositions. Every student at the Academy will get his or her own solo number. The show will then close with a few group songs such as a holiday medley and an arrangement of “Do Re Mi” from Sound of Music.

All of the older students are collaborating on an arrangement of the song “In the Mood” by Glen Miller. There will be an all-winds groups, consisting of my bass clarinet, two saxophones, a flute and a melodica that will play the main melody as well as backups between lyrics. My solo piece for this show will be the song “Girl From Ipanema” which I will play on my clarinet. I’ll be accompanied by my friends who’ll play guitar, piano, drums, and bass. Each one of us will get a chance to solo for a chorus or two then we’ll come back together with the melody and finish the song.

The second show planned for next week is taking place here at school. The music department of the after school visual and performing arts classes is putting on its production for a holiday concert. I am most excited for the Jazz Combo’s performance. We will play three songs including Myles Davis’ “Milestones.” And the Jazz Ensemble is playing an awesome version of “The Grinch” adapted for big bands.

I am looking forward to the upcoming week with high hopes. Shout out to Mario and wish him nothing but the best!

Life Update

Pictured: (l-r) Taylor Cox, Katelyn Divis holding flowers after their piano recital -- Photo courtesy of Taylor Cox

Pictured: (l-r) Taylor Cox, Katelyn Divis holding flowers after their piano recital — Photo courtesy of Taylor Cox

Hi! It’s good to be writing again! So, this blog is called Life Update, so that’s what I’m planning on doing. On Sunday November 13, I had a World Championship jiu-jitsu tournament. I fought girls who weigh, like, twenty pounds heavier than me, but I’m used to it. Even so, I didn’t place and I was really disappointed. I know I surprised the girls I was fighting, but that wasn’t enough for me. 

With my music life, I have a lot going on. I’m going to try out for my future high school music program, APA (Academy of Performing Arts), in a few months. I am going to sing and play piano to “All I Ask” by Adele. I am super pumped about that, and I know I’m going to make it, I hope. I’ve also joined the worship team at church. That, too, is very exciting. I even learned a song the day before and it was pretty awesome. On top of that, I’m writing more music, but I’m kind of putting that on the backburner for now because I’m so focused on my tryouts. I did, however, write a song about leaving your legacy behind and it was a hit at my recital in June that I had. It’s called Legacy and is a good piece of me that I put onto paper, or, in my case, a file in an SD card.

Speaking of technology, I am learning google  drive right now. I’m so excited about that. I’m actually going to try to submit a proposal to speak in San Francisco at the CTEBVI conference again. I would love to talk to the Northern California crowd this year about the technology I use throughout my school day, including Google Drive.

I’ll keep writing sometime soon.  Signing off,