Four years ago, I was asked to play background music alongside my two friends, Violinist George Pekarsky and StringTime Violin Teacher Caitlyn Dillard, at a pre-event dinner at the Aspen Institute in DC.
Just like any other gig, we prepared our pieces, dressed up, and loaded up the car with our instruments and music stands. Little did we know that soon we would stand face to face with one of the most famous basketball players of all time- Kobe Bryant.
In life, we get very few opportunities to stand in the presence of greatness. When those opportunities come, they create memories that will last a lifetime.
At this dinner, Kobe centered his remarks around the importance of sports programs for kids. He shared his vision of a world where more students come home from school and have a mission. A world where they are physically, mentally, and emotionally challenged to be the best versions of themselves. A world where they fail, but get back up again and keep trying. A world where they do things they didn't even think they could do. A world where they learn sportsmanship and build character. Kobe saw a world where communities could be built and transformed through basketball.
After the event, Kobe walked up to us while we were putting away our instruments and started making small talk. He asked us where we were from, how long we had been playing our instruments, and why we chose them. I was most shocked by how "normal" he was. His demeanor was humble, gentle, and kind.
I still remember the night when I read the news that Kobe passed away. I was in Oberlin, Ohio at a friend's house for coffee. It seemed surreal--like a great life ended too soon. It also caused me to pause and think about my evening spent with him.
I'm not particularly into basketball, but when I think of Kobe, I will always remember the lessons I learned from him: Be great, but be humble and kind. Develop your talent and most importantly invest it back into your community.
Just like sports, music has the power to transform communities. At StringTime, we see a world where students are inspired to be the best version of themselves, overcome challenges, and use their music to bless others. We stand on the shoulders of giants. It's up to us to pass the torch for the future generation of musicians.
Lourdes de la Peña and the StringTime Family