I love playing piano now, but I absolutely hated it at first. When I was in second grade, my mom forced me to take piano lessons. I had the worst teacher in the world. He was mean and he only let me play classical music, which was very unappealing to a second grader. For the first few years, I hated the thought of playing piano. But when I was in sixth grade, I found a new teacher, who taught me how incredible the piano can be.

His methods helped me appreciate and fall in love with the piano. He taught me how to bring my own, personal style into everything I played – even classical music. He also encouraged me to write songs. This goes to show you how much a great teacher can impact your life. Thank you, Norm Huie.

I always knew that I wanted to be a singer, and my new approach to the piano made me want to be a songwriter too. In eighth grade, I wrote my first song. It was for a middle school project. I came up with some chord changes, and my best friend helped me write a melody and lyrics that were pretty dark for a couple of eighth graders. I hope our teacher wasn’t too concerned as we belted, “The tears are falling like soft rain.”

Even though we only played it for our classmates, I knew at that moment I wanted to perform songs that I created. From eighth grade on, my life has revolved around music. It was then that Kiana and I started our first band, The Raymies. It only lasted four years, but the band gave us the opportunity to perform every week and ultimately become better musicians. We practiced four hours a day, we wrote songs and we learned how to play music with a band. We were in full pursuit of music and did not want anything to slow us down.

However, in 2014 I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. It was the hardest time of my life. I was so sick that most days I couldn’t get off the couch. Yet even then, on the occasions that I felt ok, we wrote songs and played shows. During those hard times, I found encouragement through music and other cancer survivors. Both were a comfort; a sympathetic friend. My goal now is to help other people in the same way, by being an encouragement and a friend through music.