Meet Our Students
Kahzi, violist, Harmony Oaks Community Center
Written by Jordan Peota
Music education all-star, Tom Bracy from Conn-Selmer, recently paid a visit to our Harmony Oaks string class. I observed from a corner as he introduced himself to each student and engaged them in some silly banter. The kids responded with delighted confusion as he went down the row, mixing up names and guessing ridiculous ages. When Tom arrived at ten-year-old Kahzi, he met a rival wit and one of our brightest young violinists. “Nice to meet you Kahzi, are you married?” joked Tom. “Nope, just engaged,” replied Kahzi, without missing a beat. Giggling from the back of the room, I jotted down the anecdote and added razor sharp humor to my mental list of Kahzi’s surprising qualities. I started this list during a conversation I had with Kahzi just prior to Tom’s lesson. Here’s what I learned:
Currently a rising sixth grader at Morris Jefferson, Kahzi has his sights set on NOCCA, a prestigious performing arts high school in New Orleans. Having recently toured NOCCA with his fellow Make Music NOLA students, he told me that he was impressed with how you “get to do your own thing there,” an important consideration for such unique student. I asked Kahzi if he would like to study violin at NOCCA and he said yes, but he would also like to continue to create visual art. He went on to tell me that his preferred mediums are colored pencils, pastels and occasionally markers. Of course, he prefers pastels because of their ability to blend colors. I file budding illustrator next to musician and scholar.
Kahzi takes inspiration for his art from the popular anime show Dragon Ball Z. His dad showed the first season to him and his siblings, and they have been die-hard fans ever since. However, epic Japanese animation sagas are not the only shared passion within the family. Kahzi’s younger brother Nasir is also a Make Music NOLA violinist. Kahzi and Nasir are stand partners and often play duets together. I guess you can add role model to the list!
Oh, did I mention that Kahzi is an avid basketball player with dreams of playing professionally? Better mark that one down too.
We at Make Music NOLA wish him the best in all his future endeavors and will always have his back — though he should probably postpone that engagement for at least a few more years.
Tameah, violinist, NORDC/Gernon Brown
Written by Jordan Peota
Tameah is a 3rd grader at Kipp Believe Primary who joined Make Music NOLA this year studying violin after school. When describing Tameah’s personality, the word unique jumps immediately to my mind. I had the privilege to ask her some questions last Friday during our recent visit to the NOCCA campus. Tameah’s extra-ordinariness shone through no matter how simple my questions.
For example, when I asked her what her favorite ice cream flavor is, she answered that she liked frozen yogurt. And when I asked what her favorite song was, she initially named Liza Jane, then launched into a story about how she is beginning to invent new tunes. She told me, “One time I was playing Liza Jane and then I added Twinkle Twinkle Little Star in the middle and I was like whoa, what was that!?” That is called improvising!
Another uncommon and wonderful quality of Tameah is that she loves to practice her violin. I asked her if it ever annoys her family when she does. She replied, “No, my Mom likes it and sometimes I play to wake her up!” I think even I would enjoy waking up if it was to the one-of-a-kind sound of Tameah’s violin.
Mychal-Mali, Violist, NORDC/Gernon Brown Rec Center
by Jordan Peota
It’s a bright and crisp Saturday morning, and inside the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, twelve young string players are set to play for an audience of friends, family and museum goers. They have prepared well for the concert and each stands confidently. Yet, one student stands out. Thirteen-year-old Mychal-Mali McCaskill has the calm and poise of a player twice her age. Her eyes are laser focused and her stance is straight and still. And as the young violist plays a duet of J.S. Bach’s Minuet No. 1 it’s obvious that nothing phases her. She nails every note and brings the work to life.
Although Mali started with Make Music NOLA only last year, she has quickly become a leader at Make Music NOLA’s Gernon Brown site. And she manages that while keeping up a busy schedule that includes school work, tennis and weekend volunteering. (In her spare time, she likes to draw, read and make up her own stories.)
Originally a violinist, Mali was drawn to the viola by its low tone. The viola typically plays a supportive role in the orchestra, reinforcing and deepening the melodies played by the violins. Much like the viola, Mali herself often plays a supporting role in her family. As the eldest of three—she has two younger siblings, Louis and Ocoee, also Make Music NOLA students—she often plays the crucial part of babysitter. Yet, even more important is her function as a role model. “I have to be careful with what I do, when my siblings are in my shadow,” she says.
In about a year, Mali will be deciding where she would like to go to high school. Certainly a daunting task for any middle-schooler. Yet when asked if she has thought about that, she responds with characteristic confidence and clarity: “At this point I am considering three schools—Sci High, Ben Franklin or St Mary’s,” she says.
The school Mali chooses will be extremely lucky to have such a bright and balanced musician joining their ranks. For she’s already shown that whether playing a concert, making difficult choices or assuming the pressures of being an older sister, this unflappable 7th grader can handle any challenge.