Rachel Willis is an eighth grader, an avid cello player, and a very big fan of Cazadero. It runs in her family. Rachel?s sister, Leah, has attended Caz for the last four years, and her mother, Ellen Winograd, was a camper and counselor at Caz years ago. Rachel?s father, Gerry Willis, has also been a guest conductor at Caz in the past and will return again this summer.
Rachel took an extraordinary step this year in her support of Caz, by declining gifts at her Bat Mitzvah celebration, and requesting instead that donations be made to the Cazadero Performing Arts Camp Scholarship Fund. As a result, Rachel raised close to $2,400 for our 2010 Scholarship Fund which will fund as many as 6 scholarships for campers this summer. All of us at Caz are touched by Rachels efforts. We caught up with Rachel recently to talk to her about her love of music and of Caz.
When did you first discover your love of music? How?
I?ve been surrounded by music my whole life! Both my parents and most of their friends play, and my dad is a conductor of an orchestra. I remember being about 10 and going to one of my dad?s concerts and feeling like I didn?t want to watch, I wanted to play! Soon after that I started playing the cello. I actually started playing the piano when I was about 7, but I think the cello is more fun. And there are less cello players, which I like better.
What is it about music that is so important and enjoyable for you?
When I play music I don?t just play what?s written, I play it with character, which makes it sound better, makes it more fun to play, easier to get through, and more heartfelt. In my life, music keeps me focused, makes me want to achieve more, and become a better musician. If I hear someone who?s better than me, I don?t get mad, I just try to work hard to get better than them! When I sit down to learn a new piece, first I read through the whole piece, then I go to the spots that are harder, and practice them, then try the whole piece again, then focus on the next spot that needs work.
What role do you think music will play in your life going forward?
I want to go to Stanford. I think playing the cello might help me to get in. They have a great music department, and not a lot of cellos, and I think that is going to really help. Music will help me go far in my college experience. My old cello teacher was a high school student in my dad?s orchestra, and he won this great scholarship in a competition in Las Vegas and got into the San Francisco Conservatory and Oberlin on full scholarship, and I want to be just like him.
Why are you so fond of Caz?? What is it about Caz that is so special for you??
I?ve been going to Cazadero for two years, but my sister has been going for the last four years. She would tell me all about all her great experiences there. I think I knew I wanted to go to Caz when I first saw my sister perform. I saw her play with a big smile on her face. She was having fun! Then we went back to her cabin, which was cool, and I met all the counselors, who were super nice. It just felt like I should go there!
I have made many friends at Caz and know that they?ll be lifelong friends, just like my mom did when she went to Caz. Also, going to Caz is a chance for me to play cello more than I usually do. And I?ve met many new people and conductors that make me want to become a better cello player.
Why did you make the decision to have donations made to Caz on the important occasion of your Bat Mitzvah?
I have had so much fun at Cazadero, I think other talented young musicians should be able to enjoy the gift of music, and be able to play, and have a good camp experience, even if they can?t afford it.
Do you have any final thoughts you?d like to share with our newsletter audience?
I don?t know what I want to be yet or what I want to do in the future, but I know I will have lifelong Caz friends, and I will always remember all the great times I?ve had there.