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Aniya Gonzalez Returns to All-State Orchestra
It’s rare for someone to find their life’s passion early in life, but for Aniya Gonzalez, the third grade is where it began.
As her classmates considered what musical instrument they wanted to play, Aniya felt an indescribable connection to the violin. She would practice as soon as she returned home from school, and soon enough she was among the best in her class.
“When other kids were bored and wanted to do something fun, they might go on their phone or go outside. I wanted to play my violin,” Aniya said. “When I got mad, I wanted to play my violin and I would feel better.”
Fast-forward nine years later, and Aniya - now a Middletown High School senior - leads the orchestra’s violin section and is about to make history as the only person in school history to go to the New York State School Music Association’s (NYSSMA) All-State Symphony Orchestra twice.
Every spring, NYSSMA attracts thousands of orchestra, band, and choir sophomores and juniors to audition and be evaluated by a certified adjudicator. Aniya received a perfect score (100) on her solo piece, and her sight reading and scale skills, and an invitation to Rochester, NY, on December 1-4 to play with New York’s best of the best.
Pure talent is a factor in any musician’s success, but for Aniya, meticulous practice and a strong work ethic was worth even more. By the time the Twin Towers Middle School orchestra teacher, Mrs. Amanda Mita, met her, she could tell that Aniya’s dedication was exceptional. “She would often tell me that she studied the great violinists on Youtube in super slow speed, seconds at a time, so she could try to achieve technique like they had - when she was 10 or 11!” said Mita, who has also taught Aniya privately since sixth-grade.
“She’s made me into the violinist that I am today,” Aniya said.
However, Mrs. Mita said Aniya's drive is not limited to her violin, but to her many other extracurricular activities as well. She’s a member of Concert Choir, Chamber Singers, and Pipers. She also enjoys performing in musicals, like last spring’s production of “Legally Blonde,” where she starred as Elle Woods. Aniya is also a record-holding member of the diving team! Even outside of school, Aniya finds opportunities to showcase her talents. Most recently, she performed in the Hudson Valley Performing Arts Foundation’s Youth Orchestra, and over the summer she participated in the Ithaca College Summer Music Academy.
During COVID shutdowns, when scholars experienced frustrations with virtual education, Aniya found a silver lining. In-person private lessons were out, yet she found an opportunity to devote even more of her free time to practicing, and improved her self-critiquing through recording and listening to herself.
However, Aniya’s overwhelming music experience didn’t make her All-State audition easy. The violin seats in the All-State orchestra are very competitive, so scholars strive for a flawless audition. Aniya put a lot of focus on her sight-reading because it’s not her strong suit, as well as her endurance for the long and repetitive Mozart Violin Concerto #4 in her audition. Aniya also overcame performance anxiety, which is common no matter a musician’s experience level, and prepared dozens of videos to find the best one to send for her virtual audition.
All of her hours of hard work paid off, and now she’s free to look forward to playing with the All-State Symphony Orchestra once again! She remembers last year’s All-State experience as the best orchestra she’s ever played in. She can’t wait for another opportunity to be surrounded by the sounds of the top scholar-musicians in the state. But there is still so much to come for Aniya when All-State is over. She is waiting to hear if she’s accepted into the National Association For Music Education’s (NAFME) All-Eastern Conference, where she would play with the best scholar-musicians across the East Coast.
But when Aniya considers what she’ll do after graduation, life will get even busier. Aniya wants to become an emergency medicine physician, but she still can’t shake the music bug. Although she herself finds it crazy, she’s planning on pursuing a dual degree for Pre-med and Violin Performance.
“I know that I would be doing myself a disservice if I didn’t go all the way with the violin because it is such an important part of my life,” Aniya said. “I know I’m not done.”