Playing a New Tune: Student finds new love in music

By: Alyssa Dekutoski

Sophomore Meron Abebe has an ongoing list of instruments she likes to play, but the list now has a new quirky addition, the ukulele. Before that, she was adapted to playing the violin and piano, along with the occasional guitar, but everything changed when she listened to Twenty One Pilots. While listening to the band she became engrossed by the funky sound of the ukelele and was inspired to play it.

Meron said that the violin is her favorite instrument because she had been playing for so long (eight years) and that she had a lot of good memories from all of the practice times, but for her, the ukulele is a very close second because it’s so easy to learn new songs.  “I’ve always thought of the ukulele as a really interesting instrument. I really got interested in it when I started listening to the band Twenty One Pilots. The lead singer plays the ukulele in a few of their songs, and I thought it was really cool. About a year ago, one of my best friends got a ukulele, and she let me use it to learn how to play. The first song I learned was ‘House of Gold’ by Twenty One Pilots, and it only took me a few hours to learn the basics.”

Meron has some fond memories when it comes to her music, but her favorite was when she started. That was when she was 7, and she went to Sturgis Falls Festival with her dad, and there was an “instrument petting zoo” where they let people try out a bunch of different instruments. She couldn’t  remember if it was set up by the Suzuki School of Music at UNI or the Waterloo/Cedar Falls Symphony, but she remembered telling the person standing behind the table that she wanted to play the violin. So they handed her one and told her how to hold it and play. “Once I started playing, I basically moved the bow as fast as I could while changing between strings. I sounded awful, but I loved it. I told my dad that I was a fiddle player, and he started laughing. A couple minutes later, I put down the violin, and my dad and I moved on, but he signed me up to take lessons at Suzuki a few weeks later, and I’m still taking lessons there eight years later.”

Meron’s music not only plays an academic role in her life but also emotional. “Any one of my friends can tell you how happy I am when I listen to or talk about music because it’s the only thing that has never hurt me or let me down. It’s something I can rely on to relax me or make me feel better after a bad day, whether I’m listening to it or playing one of my instruments.” She said, “Since I started at a young age, I feel like I appreciate music and musicianship on a different level than some of my classmates and friends. Learning an instrument takes a lot of patience and perseverance, and those qualities have helped me a lot in other aspects of my life.”

Meron also has some wide tastes in music. Her favorite song to play on violin is “Czardas” by Vittorio Monti. “It’s a song that changed moods frequently from dark and heavy to light and joyous.” Her favorite song to play on ukulele is “House of Gold” because it was the first piece she learned. But Twenty One Pilots has her heart because “Their music is unlike anything else I’ve ever heard, and the lyrics have helped me through a lot.” Her musical taste overall is very broad: everything from Aretha Franklin to The Front Bottoms and a lot more.

Meron still focuses first on the violin, but on the ukulele, she’s open to anything. “Since my music taste is so broad,” she said, “I’ll just teach myself how to play some of my favorite songs, but those can change from week to week.”

Meron has been asked before if music is going to be a part of her future, and it’s definitely something she has considered. “Everyone dreams of being famous for something at come point in their lives, and I always used to imagine what it would be like to be a famous singer,” she said. “Being in a band of some kind would be a dream some true for me. I’ve always loved performing in front of other people. Realistically, the likelihood of that happening is very slim, but I’ll take any chance that I get in the future,” but if her future cannot be what she envisions, she will go study humanities.

Abebe has also played in other special groups such as orchestra, choir, musical theater in speech and the 2015 All-State orchestra, which is a high honor orchestra for the best of the best musicians in the state.

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