By Victor Beteta, 17, University HS
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Victor's favorite way to find new classical music is to search on because it's free.

I used to think that classical music was boring. There was no beat and no lyrics, and it expressed no emotions. It was just a bunch of old, boring instruments making old, boring music. Even when I played violin at school in sixth grade I thought it was lame and a waste of my time. I never thought that I’d become someone who listens to classical music for hours.

At the beginning of ninth grade my mother wanted me to get involved in an activity instead of just being home doing nothing. She told me that the Harmony Project had a piano class. The Harmony Project is an organization that provides free music classes to students in L.A. County. They give you the instruments and the only requirements are that you have good grades and are part of the school’s reduced-price lunch program. My younger brother plays the flute and had joined the Harmony Project Orchestra. I saw how good he’d gotten at playing the flute. I told her that I would join the class so she would stop bugging me.

I tried my best during the lessons

The classes met on Monday and Wednesday nights at Los Angeles City College. The teacher introduced herself as Britney. I decided I wasn’t going to do nothing for an hour so I took it seriously. She used a giant electronic keyboard diagram to show us where each key was. She would play the notes and the diagram would light up the keys she played so we could follow along and play them. The diagram made it easy.

The next week they gave us electronic keyboards and headphones so that we could practice at home. I spent an hour practicing every day. After a month, I could play basic scales, read music and play “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”

Soon it was November, and we were supposed to have a piece ready for the recital that was the first weekend of December. My English teacher had taken the class to see the opera Carmen, and I really wanted to play “Habanera” from it. I was inspired by the beautiful music. I was disappointed when Britney told me that the piece was too hard for me. So I chose “Musetta’s Waltz” from the opera La Bohème because they mention it in the musical Rent. It was a version written for a beginner and I practiced it an hour a day.

My mom, dad, brother and aunts came tp the recital. By that night I’d memorized “Musetta’s Waltz.” I messed up one part, but I don’t think people noticed because they still clapped. Hearing that made me feel accomplished, because I had learned a song and people liked it.

Illustration by Sam Landsberg, 17, Hamilton HS

I didn’t think classical music was boring anymore. It is filled with emotion and even when nobody is singing it is telling a story. When the music speeds up it shows a happy moment and when the flutes play high-pitched notes it shows excitement. Sometimes the drums are slow and low-pitched, which creates suspense.

I wanted to hear more classical music so I went to my neighborhood library. The classical music section had only about 10 CDs. I thought there’d be more. I asked the librarian if they had more and she told me, “People don’t usually check out that kind of music.” Then she told me to try the Central Library downtown.

I started listening to it all the time

The classical music CDs filled three shelves at the Central Library. If the cover looked nice, I picked it up. I checked out three CDs, took them home and ripped them into my iTunes library. My brother’s old iPod shuffle, which he doesn’t use anymore, became my classical music iPod. I would listen to it whenever I was doing homework or chores, or just in my room. A lot of the melodies I had heard before in Looney Tunes cartoons. I realized that classical music is in places that you might not expect.

I also put composers’ names like Mozart, Bach and Beethoven in Pandora, Internet radio that you can personalize so that it plays your favorite artists and finds similar artists to them. I listen to it for hours and it helps me relax. When I couldn’t sleep I used to listen to the air conditioner sound on the Sleep Machine app on my iPod. But the sounds were too repetitive, so I switched to mellow classical music.

This past summer the Harmony Project took us to the Hollywood Bowl to see the L.A. Philharmonic in concert. All the pieces were by Beethoven. Seeing a professional orchestra play live was different than listening to music coming from speakers. The music had more life to it. The pianist was so into it; he had long hair and he was banging his head like a rock star as he played. His passion for the music made everyone sit quiet and pay attention to what he was playing. I was drawn into the music that surrounded me.

Because of budget cuts, the Harmony Project cut my piano class last year. I’m glad I got the chance to take the class because playing the piano help me realized that classical music is exciting.