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Spotlight on Brandon, ETM-LA Donor

“Having music in your life changes how you move through the world and how you think about things”


My name is Brandon, and I’m currently a PhD student studying theoretical physics at Stanford. Way before I became interested in science, I fell in love with music: I grew up playing piano from a fairly young age, and then later picked up guitar and drums after watching the movie “School of Rock”, deciding that it was my calling to play in a heavy metal band. Although I ultimately decided to chase physics, there are tons of ways music has and will continue to play an important role in shaping my life.

For example, most of my day is spent doing relatively technical things, and there’s only so much of that you can do before you start losing your mind. It’s important to hit the refresh button on your brain every now and then to prevent it from getting stuck circling around in loops all day. For some people, that could be going for a walk, or painting, but for me it’s always been playing and writing music. I’ve always felt that diversifying where I invest my mental energy has helped with my creativity as a physicist, and keeps the “other half of my brain” from turning to mush. It also provides an outlet for me to express myself in ways that I can’t in any other setting. In general, having music in your life changes how you move through the world and how you think about things; the perspective is invaluable!

The mentorship that comes with music education is also very special. My piano teacher, Brian, shaped me as a person in ways that go far beyond music. Part of the reason for that is that the bond between a student and their piano teacher is not quite like any other student/teacher relationship: it’s formed from spending extensive and intimate one-on-one time with one another, more than you would with most other mentors, during which¬†you are bearing parts of your soul in front of them through musical expression. A piano teacher is a source of valuable lessons, inspiration, and wisdom that you can take with you into the rest of your life, however you choose to live it. They watch you grow in very tangible ways, and you associate that particular aspect of your growth unequivocally to them. In an ideal world, a musical mentor would be a part of everyone’s coming of age.

This past Christmas, after playing only for myself for most of my life, I decided I wanted to share some of my music with my friends and family, and so I threw a small recital at my house. In the months leading up to the event, I spent a lot of time reflecting on my relationship with music, and how fortunate I was to have had a piano in the house growing up, that my parents could afford to get me piano lessons, and so on and so forth. I knew I wanted to leverage my recital to raise money so that others could enjoy some of the same opportunities I had as a kid. After looking around for organizations that are involved in music education, I found Education Through Music-LA, and was really impressed with the work that they are doing. After reaching out to them, I learned that their work is impressive because it’s being done by truly incredible people on the ETM-LA staff.

In short, I’m super happy to know that you guys exist, and I’m excited to continue watching the amazing impact you have on your local communities. Thanks for all that you do!