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The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Student violinist plays music with meaning
Mayling Lopez plays her violin by the fountain | City College – Quad | Monday 09-30-2019 | Niko Panagopoulos | The Express | [email protected]

Classical-sounding music comes from the large brick fountain in front of the Performing Arts Center, where a young woman with long black hair sits. Mayling Lopez is holding a violin and an enchanting tune floats out of it. Her eyes focus on the score in front of her. Her posture is confident, and her movements are elegant.

Lopez, 25, is a City College violinist and singer who has a dream to compose and perform, whether it’s with a stringed instrument or a choir.

“I try to be a perfectionist with music,” says Lopez, a music major. “I don’t like half-assing things—especially with music because I love it.”

Music has been a part of her life for a long time. Lopez started playing the violin at age 12 after her mother encouraged her to sign up for her first orchestra class.

“My mother wanted me to play the violin because she loved its timbre and thought it was one of the most beautiful stringed instruments she has heard,” says Lopez.

Lopez recalls that it was difficult to play the violin at first. 

“I didn’t like playing the violin at first because it was something I didn’t want to do,” says Lopez. “I remembered being nervous about my first orchestra class and it didn’t help that my first orchestra teacher looked intimidating to me.”

She didn’t realize that music was going to be a large part of her future career until she was a senior at McClatchy. Her mother’s health began to decline over the summer, and during the first week of Lopez’s senior year, her mother died. 

“One of the things that comforted me was music,” says Lopez. “The idea of playing the violin was comforting because it was the one thing she always encouraged. I found peace through it.” 

After her mother’s death, Lopez held a concert as a small fundraiser for Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, which she attends. The event was part of her senior project. She also wanted to give back to the church to thank its members for her mother’s funeral service and to share her love of music. 

At the concert, she played a piece from “Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle,” an anime TV series that she had transcribed herself with the help of her orchestra teacher at the time. 

“I developed leadership skills, event planning and writing music for the first time,” says Lopez. “It was a life-changing thing for me. Before, music was just recreational; now it is essential.”

Mayling attends City College because it is conveniently close, accessible and affordable. She is currently taking college choir, vocal ensemble and art classes.

Lopez spends a majority of her time in the music practice rooms in the Performing Arts Center. The rooms are small, and every room has a few different instruments inside. Some rooms have pianos, and others have drum sets. Many people like Lopez bring their own instrument to practice. 

Lopez already has earned three A.A. degrees in music at City College. Her musical degrees include music performance, commercial music, songwriting and arranging. She hopes to transfer to Sacramento State University soon to further pursue her musical career.

Lopez has also been singing with the City College choir for five years. She is also part of the All Voices Choir Project, a group that gives voice to social injustices through the act of singing. But she has been an instrumentalist for most of her musical career. She plays piano and has dabbled a bit in guitar as well as the violin, her favorite instrument.

Her violin was a gift from her boyfriend Jesus Andrade. She met him in one of Paulson’s music classes. 

“He strongly encourages me to play,” says Lopez. “When we first met, I was known as the violin girl to him.”

Andrade noticed that Lopez was losing motivation to play the violin. He decided to get a better paying job and took it upon himself to buy her a new violin. 

“I thought it would be a great way to motivate her again,” says Andrade. “Her drive and her passion to play the violin is one of the things I liked about her when I met her.”

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Lopez enjoys playing classical music, video game music and anime music. She has transcribed two songs and has been working on five others for her violin. She has also composed a few other small pieces of music.

“I’ve got so much motivation from this semester,” says Lopez. “People are being so encouraging for me to sing and play the violin. I found people who want to partner up with me. They want me to play the violin while they play the piano. It’s exciting.”

Lopez took three of Paulson’s music classes— applied music, college choir and vocal ensemble—where she learned that Paulson uses the word “musiking” when he talks about making music.

“I know she enjoys being in a community of music-making,” says Paulson. “She thrives in that environment where she’s creating something. She’s ‘musiking’ in the moment with people, and I believe that’s one of the things that’s behind her passion. Through music she creates community, and through music she communicates her deep appreciation.”

Paulson fondly looks back on a memory of Lopez when at the end of the spring 2019 semester she surprised him at an open house event with a beautiful tribute of appreciation. It was her way of showing thanks—she played a violin solo. 

“Over the years she’s really blossomed as a violinist trying out this choir thing,” says Paulson. “I’m reflecting back at that moment and [thinking about] how she uses music as a vehicle to express her appreciation for others. I think that’s a really special attribute of Mayling. She has become much more vulnerable with her sharing of music and singing. She initially was timid and unsure. She really rooted herself in this community of ‘musiking.’”

Lopez’s on-campus community is rooted in the City College music department. She met her best friend Terra Richards in guitar class in spring 2019. Richards is easy to spot with her red-wine dyed hair and large black-framed glasses. 

“Without Mayling, I would never have gotten into choir because I didn’t have the confidence,” says Richards. “She physically dragged me into the choir community. Now we are lowkey inseparable. We are together all the time.”

Richards also takes choir with Lopez. When they perform in a choir event, they become nervous. Lopez describes herself as dreading the performance. However, once she starts singing, the fear falls away. 

“What’s crazy is that when the event is over, we’re all so disappointed,” says Lopez. “We want to do more. It’s addicting.”

Lopez, along with the City College choir, has performed in numerous choral events. The college choir has performed for the Sacramento ballet, the Crest Theater in downtown with famous musician Ethan Bortnick, and has been invited to sing at the tree lighting event in Old Sacramento in downtown.

“I have seen Mayling perform and it’s wondrous,” says Richards. “I think she’s freaking awesome. She’s well known in the music department. She puts in a lot of work, and she gets what she puts in.”

Lopez describes choir as a moment when everyone is resonating with each other, everyone is filled with vibrancy—the entire room comes to life. 

“I have experienced this a few times,” says Lopez. “When you feel so much sensation that it starts from your head and goes through your feet, the room, and then your body. It feels powerful and inviting.” 

“It’s a beautiful thing to witness,” says Richards. “I get actual chills.” 

Lopez enjoys singing and playing her violin so much that she spends most of her time in the practice rooms. Lopez says she practices her violin at least twice a week. She gestures to the tiny music practice room and jokingly calls it her living room.

“If you want to find Mayling, look in the practice rooms because that’s where she is going to be,” says Richards. 

Lopez pulls out her violin in the practice room and plays a piece of music. The music piece is called “Lazy Afternoons” from the video game “Kingdom Hearts.” The violin music is peaceful enough to fall asleep to. When she finishes her piece, she looks over and asks, “Would you like for me to play another piece?”

Future choir performances this fall are: Festival of Music on Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, at 6:00 pm. Location at All Saints Episcopal Church.

Community Sing on Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2019 at 7:00pm. Located at Sacramento City College Performing Arts Center Room 150.

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