Author Archives: garaytac

I’ve Always Wanted to Play Music in New York

Cheryl Garayta
Director of Academic Quality and Integrated English Adjunct

Teaching ESL has given me so many experiences with so many uniquely wonderful students that it’s difficult to even attempt to choose one interaction that is the most memorable. However, thinking back through all the years and all the students, the one whose story touched me the most deeply and made me forever grateful that I had been able to be part of his story was Daniel. Daniel and his brother David were Cuban refugees with whom I worked at Miami Dade College. They were both my students, both my advisees, and when they moved from the ESL program into college-credit classes and became student employees, they both became my employees. Both were extremely bright, highly motivated to learn English and succeed in this country, and both were highly skilled musicians. David played saxophone; Daniel played trumpet, and both had been conservatory-trained in Cuba. David chose to go into Music Education. Daniel, however, had his sights set on a career as a professional musician.

When they first began talking about their goals for their careers in music and Daniel asked how he could move into professional musicianship, I suggested he think about Julliard. This was just as he was moving from ESL into his first semester of credit classes. I had heard both brothers play, and I knew that the talent they both displayed made aiming for the best a possibility, not the impossible dream. Daniel became involved in multiple music groups at MDC – jazz band, concert band, rock band – name the type of ensemble, he was a member. As he began the second year of his AA, I again encouraged him to look at Julliard and not worry about cost. I told him scholarships were out there, and the worst that could happen was that he would also be accepted at a state university in Florida where he would be able to finish his degree. Daniel agreed to try and applied to both Julliard and the Manhattan School of Music at NYU. He auditioned for both and was accepted to both, but he received a full scholarship to the Manhattan School. That became his destination.

The night before he left for New York at the end of the following summer, Daniel told me that when he was six years old in Cuba, his music teacher had played him a black market recording of American jazz. He fell in love and said, “I want to play that music!” His teacher said, “Kid, to play that music, you have to be in New York.” Daniel then said that every night after that, from the time he was six years old to the night before we spoke, his prayer as he fell asleep was, “Please, God, somehow let me get to New York!” How can I be anything but overwhelmingly grateful that I was able to be part of God’s answer to his prayer?