Kendall

A scholarship — and one fancy violin — are sending this kid to Michigan

Manuel Berberian, left, owner of Allegro Music Center, listens to Yosvani Rodriguez, 16, play a violin he donated to him.
Manuel Berberian, left, owner of Allegro Music Center, listens to Yosvani Rodriguez, 16, play a violin he donated to him. Photo provided to the Miami Herald

Any serious musician wants to attend the Interlochen Center for the Arts, but few are fortunate enough to make it there. Now, with the help of a $45,000 scholarship, violinist Yosvani Rodriguez of South Miami-Dade will be able to attend the prestigious music academy.

On the first day of class, Sept. 4, he’ll be celebrating both the gift of music and his 17th birthday.

“Music is my way of daily expressing myself and the things I can’t with words,” Yosvani said. “I use it to give a gift and show people how I feel about them.”

When in the fifth grade, Yosvani saw a YouTube video of an orchestra playing. In awe, he picked up his first violin and has been playing ever since. Now a sophomore at the Mays Conservatory of the Arts in South Dade, he has grown into one of the most talented and dedicated musicians the South Florida Youth Symphony has ever seen, director Marjorie Hahn said. Only two other students from the symphony have been accepted to the academy.

Yosvani travels from South Dade to the youth symphony in Kendall, and then practices and performs in North Miami-Dade. To attend rehearsals, he has traveled with Hahn every Sunday, and daily for summer camps, for three years.

“Young musicians need to apply themselves and improve their technique. Getting a scholarship to Interlochen is a reward for his countless hours of practice and dedication,” Hahn said. “It is a very expensive venture and most families can not even begin to think of how to manage that.”

But if you ask the violinist himself: “I play decently,” Yosvani shrugs.

Playing2
Yosvani Rodriguez, left, a 16-year old sophomore at Mays Conservatory of Music in Goulds, leads the string section in the playing of several environment-themed pieces during the South Florida Youth Symphony's concert May 7, 2017, at the Lehman Theater at Miami Dade College's North Campus. Photo provided to the Miami Herald

Although he has only been playing for five years, his teachers say he has the skill of someone who has studied for twice as long. There’s only one problem — his scholarship is $45,000 and the annual cost of the academy is $69,000. To make up the difference, Yosvani has been selling his personal items, like his desktop computer and video games, as well as working at the symphony summer camp.

The cost is a huge burden, but Yosvani said he plans to remain positive. His dream is to study at Interlochen for two years before auditioning for a major music conservatory. The opportunity is more than he imagined, and the teen is just glad to continue doing what he loves.

All who hear the music he makes are astounded — and he didn’t even own his own violin until about two months ago. It wasn’t until Hahn contacted Manuel Berberian, owner of Allegro, a South Florida music industry fixture since 1961, who made an instrument for Yosvani. The new violin cost more than $1,000, including bow and case, and the sound is incredible, said publicist Lewis Matusow, a longtime youth symphony parent.

“That? He’s able to make that incredible sound come out of a school instrument?” Matusow said, recalling the first time he realized Yosvani didn’t have his own instrument.

Matusow has taken Yosvani under his wing. His mission is make sure that the 16-year-old musician gets the recognition he deserves — and he seems hesitant to accept. When Yosvani was asked if he was shy, he said no, but Matusow quickly nodded yes.

The school instruments are the worst because they’re hand-me-downs, and kids often don’t take care of them, he said. Now, because of Berberian’s kindness, Yosvani will head to Interlochen in style.

Berberian, 75, who was born in Athens, wasn’t able to afford his own violin himself when he was young. Now he prides himself on his collection of more than 50 Italian, English, Bohemian and German antique violins. Yosvani was one of many who received free lessons from him.

“My first two violins were given to me, so when I hear of someone like Yosvani, I like to help,” he said.

At the thought of joining other talented musicians from around the world at the academy in Michigan, Yosvani, who will be majoring in composition and violin, is cool and collected.

“It’s not really about the competition, it’s about being able to make music and being able to do that with others and share that with others,” he said.

It will be his first time living away from his family. He’s excited to live a dorm and maybe have his own mini-fridge to snack from, he said. Before he leaves, he’s composing a song for his best friend, Genesis Peña.

“This young man is going to become a very fine adult musician,” Hahn said. “It will be exciting to see his development.”

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