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?
Yes!

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.

Chris

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.
Chris

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!

Amazing Holiday Concert

Pictured: Chris Serrano in a tuxedo -- Photo courtesy of: Chris Serrano

Pictured: Chris Serrano in a tuxedo — Photo courtesy of: Chris Serrano

This passed month has been great! I had the first show with both the Jazz Ensemble and Jazz Combo at the end of October. Using my bass clarinet (that the scholarship funded), I took a solo for the first time with the Combo for the song Blue Train by John Coltrane. We also performed Fly Me To The Moon, a jazz adaptation of Thriller, and a song originally composed here in Culver City called Blue Moon.

 

The event itself was amazing! My band teacher hired a food truck to sell pupusas (a delicious Salvadorian dish) and ten percent of the proceeds went into funding the music program. It was also nice to watch all of the other bands perform their pieces. Most of the songs played that night were either Fall or Halloween related. We even set up a small carnival for elementary school kids to win prizes and candy before the show. Overall, it was an awesome way to start the year.

This coming Saturday, I have another gig with some friends of mine from the Academy of Music for the Blind. We’ll be playing a variety of jazz tunes such as Song For My Father and Blue Bossa. My friends and I recently got together and created an all winds group consisting of two flutes, a saxophone, a melodica, and my bass clarinet. We will be accompanied by our teachers who will play drums, piano, bass, and guitar in the background. Then each of us will take a short solo to show off our abilities as wind players before returning to the main melody.

Other than music, everything is going fine. School is going well but I can’t wait for the weekends to finally get here. I hung out with some friends on Halloween night and it was a blast.
Thanks again and I hope that Mario is doing well.
Chris

Musical Journey Continues

Pictured: Chris Serrano, 2016 Donna Coffee Youth Scholarship co-recipient -- Photo courtesy of Chris Serrano

Pictured: Chris Serrano, 2016 Donna Coffee Youth Scholarship co-recipient — Photo courtesy of Chris Serrano

This school year has been great so far! I cannot make it any more clear how much I am in love with my bass clarinet. Now that I am a part of both the Jazz Ensemble and Combo, my abilities as a musician have greatly increased. I am learning how to improvise with ease, I am learning new songs that I have never heard before, and best of all, I am improving upon my skills as a performer.

Being in those two bands also allows for more time to hang out with friends after school. Between practices, a bunch of my friends and I grab lunch at either the pizza place or Taco Bell only a few blocks away from school. And since we have about two whole hours to kill, we still have plenty of time to chill afterward.
The first concert has already been announced! I am super excited. The band teacher mentioned the possibility of a food truck to help raise funds for the program. There also may be a haunted house attraction and trick-or-treat stations throughout the building for kids. One of the songs we will be performing for this show is an awesome adaptation of Michael Jackson’s Thriller! We will also be doing a lot of Halloween-related blues numbers like Blue Moon and possibly Autumn Leaves.
Other than band, I have also been thoroughly enjoying the Sound Recording class I have been taking on Thursdays. We have recently received our first project for the year. I really like this class because you learn a variety of skills necessary to work in a professional studio, such as how to properly handle equipment, some music theory essential for making your compositions be the best possible, and more. It is a pretty straight forward class.
As far as music outside of school, I am also doing great. Just this passed weekend I was part of a small production at the Academy of Music for the Blind, which I attend regularly, in order to raise funds. We played a bunch of songs we haven’t done in a while which made it twice as enjoyable. The following day, I went to a party with some friends where I got the opportunity to play with the band that was hired. They were a Mexican group whose main focus was on a style of music called Norteña which is from the North region of Mexico. The leader of this band was constantly switching between instruments while I remained on the drums. There was also a lot of good food being served as well as an all-around good time being with friends.
I am looking forward to a future with increasing bright hopes. Once again, thank you for choosing me as the winner of this scholarship.
Chris

Attachments area

Amazing Musical Summer

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

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

I had a very memorable summer and part of the reason it was so special was because I was able to purchase my bass clarinet with the help of the Donna Coffee Youth Scholarship! Buying the instrument was such a positive step forward in my music career. Just two weeks ago I performed for the very first time with my bass clarinet on stage during a show that I did at the Academy of Music for the Blind. All of my other friends and teachers, apart from me, simply adore my newest instrument; it is a truly wonderful addition to the list of instruments I currently play. I am especially happy with this purchase because I got it for an incredible deal on E-Bay.

Just today, I auditioned to rejoin the Jazz Ensemble at school. I am happy to say that I made it and will now be officially a part of the tenor saxophone section. I also made into the second Jazz Combo band where I will improve on my abilities to improvise a solo. I will also have the chance to switch between instruments (drums and bass clarinet). The Combo is regularly scheduled to play gigs and, in some cases, members of the band are paid! Finally, I also joined the Sound Recording class here at school. In this class, I learn how to compose my own pieces as well as familiarize myself with the latest recording technology available.
Apart from purchasing my bass clarinet this summer, I also got my very first job. I worked at a kid’s camp at the park near my house as a sort of activity director during the last half of June. It was an amazing experience! I really enjoyed it because I was basically being paid to play games and eat lunch all day. I made some really awesome new friends with my co-workers. Also, one of my co-workers was a friend of mine that I met in Jazz Ensemble; being able to work together was another major factor that contributed to the once in a lifetime first experience.
During the last week of break, I went to camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times. We went on an overnight backpacking trip to sleep outside beneath the stars and have a good time. We also did several activities such as fishing, playing sports/games, and swimming. It was great to be able to make new friends and see friends from previous sessions.
Overall, my summer was a huge success for me. Now that I have my bass clarinet, I am looking forward to a bright musical future. Thank you so much for choosing me to be the winner of this scholarship. You have no idea how happy I am having been able to finally purchase my instrument.