20 Stories: Andrew Oung






Andrew Oung

Andrew Oung joined CMW at age 7. He studied violin with resident musician Jesse Holstein and continues to study music at Rhode Island College. Andrew serves on the CMW Board of Directors and volunteers at the Daily Orchestra Program. Andrew’s older brother Paul graduated from CMW in 2010 and younger brother Karl will graduate  this spring.

CMW is definitely transforming lives.

The violin I have was given to CMW as a gift for the tenth anniversary to be played by a CMW student who has graduated and is studying music in college, which is what I do. It’s such an amazing instrument. It’s clear in a physical way,  with this instrument, that CMW is still supporting me, even though I graduated.

CMW helped me become more open to ideas, whether about music or social justice. Having us eat meals together was probably a big part of it. To create an environment where teenagers are comfortable talking about the world or their feelings is just so difficult, and they make it look so easy. It was very difficult at first for me. I owe a lot of being able to do it now to CMW and to Phase II.

I didn’t really like playing the violin for a very long time. But quitting wasn’t an option because my parents were so keen on having the three of us [Andrew, and brothers Paul and Karl] play music. Honestly,  loving the instrument and the music came after my love for the program. I love the teachers and I love the friends I made enough that I realized I need to continue playing my instrument in order to stay with these people. Looking back now, it’s a blur of positivity and happiness.

There’s a level of  inaccessibility with classical music. Going to performances can be such an obstacle for a kid my age or for anyone, really. It seems elite or super-classy. CMW helps break down those stereotypes. The stereotype of classical music being boring is just so, so wrong. So wrong! With some really intense classical music it feels weird to sit down in an audience and listen because you just want to move or do something. I really love it.

People don’t understand how incredible CMW is.  People underestimate how much work it takes the staff to keep the program running, to be teaching, and to be performing all at the same time. It takes so much dedication. Simply being a musician takes so much dedication, but CMW is also trying to have an impact on kids’ lives. The love and the care that they put into the work and that they give the kids has been very steady and consistent. And that has definitely helped me grow and start loving music so much and creating connections with people.

Transforming a community isn’t just five years. It’s been 20 years. And we’re still trying. I would love for CMW’s impact to be widespread, not meaning more students, but just that the number of people touched increases, and people’s lives transform positively.

My biggest CMW takeaway is the music, obviously. I still study that. But also how to create a comfortable connection with another person that allows for each person to express themselves.  I’m still working as I grow older to be–I don’t want to say tolerant, it’s more than tolerant–I’m working to be more inviting.

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