Facing the Music


Tony Valera, a junior, plays the electric guitar for the Spartan’s Regiment Pink Out game performance in October. In addition to playing in the marching band, Valera is a member of the Jazz Ensemble and the Wind Ensemble.

At age five, junior Tony Valera picked up his first of many instruments, a drum set. Inspired by his father and uncle, he would create his own music without realizing the impact it would soon make on his life. After a long period of convincing, Valera’s parents put him into classical guitar lessons three years later. That was the beginning of the musical journey Valera was going to embark on for years in the future, but he didn’t realize how serious it would soon become for him. 

Once Valera reached his freshman year, his mindset in music became much more driven when he joined the Spartan Regiment. His life was soon filled with many connections he had made through music, and he discovered a newfound joy and purpose when it came to playing an instrument.

“Music has given me so many opportunities to express myself, and really let go of the timid shell I’ve kept most of my life. Last year during marching band, I realized that I could use it as an excuse to break myself out of the nervousness I had before. In my sophomore year I really made the effort to go from just playing notes on an instrument, to really performing. I remember I kept telling myself I looked dumb, but kept going because I knew that I needed to learn how to let all of that go. As that year went on I really did start to love performing to the level I do today,” Valera said. “This year I was approached with performing part of our marching show on a stage. At the time it was terrifying, and I didn’t know if I would be ready for that big of a responsibility. As the season went on though, I just went back to that performance mindset that I’ve used for the past couple years, and had the time of my life. Now, I love being able to just have fun while I perform, and communicating that fact to anyone that ends up watching.”

Although Valera grew to become used to performing in front of large crowds, the nerves still remain.

“I still get anxiety when I perform. Even after everything I’ve been through performance wise, I still have that part of me that fears that people will look down on me for what I do on that stage,” Valera reflects. “When I get to that point, I just think about the amazing people I’m performing with, and know that as long as the people I actually care about accept what I do, nothing can stop me from putting on my best performance.” 

While skill might seem to be the most important factor in playing an instrument, Valera recognizes that having great guides and role models to push him in the right direction, as well as using his time outside of school to practice have helped him accomplish more.

“I work at home to further my skills as a musician with many different instruments, and use those fundamentals to make my own instrumental music and post that music online to further my exposure to colleges in the future,” Valera said. “My advice for anyone learning an instrument is finding some great mentors, and remembering to not give up. I’ve been so lucky to have some amazing teachers throughout my musical career like my first guitar teacher Mr. Chris, and later in high school with Mr. Griffin. They taught me to never give up, and believe in myself with what I want to do with my life.”

Music can be a second identity to some, using it to express emotion in ways that can’t be communicated with words. With hard work and commitment to learning to play an instrument, Valera gained more overall than meets the eye.

 “Music has had probably the biggest impact out of everything in my life. It’s given me a sense of purpose in my life, and some amazing friends that I’m proud to call my family,” Valera said.