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Taking It to the Top
by Cherise Ryan
Every Saturday for years, Mia Laity, 15, would wake up early and be driven the 100 miles to her violin lessons and orchestra rehearsals in Dallas, Texas. On the road, she often listened to From the Top, a radio show that presents outstanding young classical musicians.
Fifteen-year-old homeschooler Mia Laity plays her violin all over the world as she pursues her dream of becoming a professional soloist.
Last January, Mia found herself on the other end—playing Wienawski’s Scherzo Tarantella to a From the Top radio audience of approximately 750,000. “My dad says that he always knew I would one day be on From the Top,” Mia said. “Playing on From the Top was a dream come true for both me and my parents.”
Mia first showed an interest in the violin at 2 years old when her parents found her using a wooden spoon and chopstick to imitate a violinist she had seen in a mariachi band. She began taking lessons at 3, learning by ear years before ever seeing a piece of sheet music. “I actually learned how to read music before I really knew how to read books!” she said. Within six months of starting, Mia was already part of a Suzuki group and playing a 1/32-size violin.
It was through Mia’s violin lessons and the friends she made there that the Laitys met many homeschoolers and became interested in homeschooling. They began homeschooling Mia in 1st grade. “Most of our friends homeschooled so it was only a matter of time before I would join them,” Mia said.
Three years ago, the Laitys moved to Phoenix, Arizona, where Mia found more musical opportunities—even soloing with the Phoenix Symphony.
While at a music camp last summer, Mia suddenly found herself in a small practice room auditioning for Tom Vignieri, From the Top’s music producer, after he arrived unexpectedly and announced that he would be conducting live auditions. A few months later she received word that she had been chosen for the show, and in January 2008 flew to Daytona Beach, Florida.
“I was a little nervous before the show started, but all that seemed to disappear as [the host of the show] played the opening notes and the piece flowed like a dream,” she said. “The audience was wonderful. After the show, everyone was exhilarated and exhausted. The show took a lot of effort, but it was all worth it.”
Mia has learned a lot of life lessons from her music. “As a musician, you have to be confident yet humble. There is no room for arrogance,” she said. “I want to be true to the music. Hearts can be reached through beauty and honesty, two qualities that every audience deserves. This is truly the best thing I can offer to anyone.”
Homeschooling has allowed Mia the flexibility needed for her travel and practicing. Recently she returned from volunteering at a viola competition with over 70 participants from all over the world (including China, Germany, and Belgium). While there, she had the opportunity to interview and announce competitors and do other administrative work. She also completed a trip with the Phoenix Youth Symphony to Italy to play three concerts, climaxing at St. Paul’s in Rome. “The acoustics [at St. Paul’s] were amazing,” she said. “The sound echoed for at least five seconds after each chord.”
Mia knew she wanted to be a solo violinist when she was 6, and that is still her dream. She hopes to someday study at the Colburn Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles. “Right now, my biggest challenge lies in becoming more independent in my musical decisions. I have to give a voice to the music I feel in my heart,” she said. “It is a challenge because there is a lot of pressure to mimic ‘the greats’ and please others (like teachers and judges), so I must dig deep and trust that there is something special I have to say and that I know how to say it.”
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