My heart beat faster when the presenter introduced me:
"From Acarigua-Araure, Venezuela...Samuel Vargas, Yamaha Young Performing Artist Winner!"
It was just before I took the stage to perform Pablo de Sarasate’s "Zigeunerweisen" for more than 1,000 people at the Yamaha Young Performing Artists Celebration Weekend -- and it was my favorite moment. The excitement was immeasurable.
As one of the 11 musicians selected as a winner of the 2019 Yamaha Young Performing Artist (YYPA) Competition, I was thrilled to perform, as well as attend the educational seminars that Yamaha provided over that weekend, which took place June 22-25 at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. I feel that the best way to show the world the power of our craft is when we have the opportunity to share what we do as artists and express our identities through music. For that reason, the Yamaha Young Performing Artists (YYPA) program has been a great experience for me.
Over the weekend, it was a pleasure to be instructed and guided by John Wittmann, Jalissa Gascho, Marcia Neel, Anders Astrand and Linda Mark through conferences related to the world of music education, business and cultural development. We were offered seminars on everything from the "philosophy of Yamaha" to developing better techniques when writing our resumes. In addition, the panel of experts helped guide us through mock interviews to develop better communication skills.
One of the most powerful lessons I learned from the Yamaha seminars was how to be a better listener. Many of the speakers shared that they owed 80% of their success to becoming a better listener - a message I’ll carry with me as I move forward in my career.
Throughout the weekend, we also had time to talk to each other, study, practice our repertoire and reflect on our purpose in life as artists.
While reflecting on my own career, I asked myself, "What does playing music mean to me? Why do I love to teach?" Playing the violin allows me to share my art with the world. Teaching, which I’ve done since I was 12 years old, gives me the chance to help my students achieve their dreams. I can give each of my violin students — no matter where they live — the opportunities that I didn’t always have. To me, there is no greater feeling.
I was also inspired by the diversity of the young artists with whom I had the pleasure of sharing this experience. Speaking with the other winners, we shared stories about how being a young musician has impacted our lives. Many had similar stories — though being a musician at a young age isn’t always easy, their love for music is bigger than any obstacle they’ve had to face so far. I couldn’t agree more. No matter what challenges I’ve had to overcome, having the opportunity to perform and share my love of music with the world makes it all worth it.
On Monday, we attended the annual YYPA Celebration Concert and the award ceremony. We were delighted to celebrate our accomplishments, but also very emotional because we knew we were going to leave the next day.
Looking back on the program, I feel the process was extremely worthwhile for my personal growth. It was not just about music — it was also about creating my path and pursuing what I want. Representing Venezuela and having the opportunity to share my craft at concert halls across the United States has been a tremendous privilege. I consider this award a testament to how hard work and dedication should be recognized, and it means a lot to me to be able to make my country proud.
The Yamaha Young Performing Artists program has been a lighthouse that guided me, and it has given me greater confidence to pursue the projects that I have in mind for the future.
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