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The story behind Encore School Of Music starts with my mom.
In 1994, I showed a strong interest in learning guitar. My mom was a single mom who immigrated to America while she was 8 months pregnant with me. My father was an abusive alcoholic, and was never a part of my life. He later passed away when I was 12. She worked extremely hard as a seamstress, rode the bus to work everyday, and gave me the best childhood anyone could ask for. In 1993, she was diagnosed with bone cancer. She started her cancer treatment, went through chemotherapy several times and could no longer work to support us. We barely had money before, we had no money now. We were evicted from our apartment just a few months later. We lived off of welfare checks and food stamps, and I remember being so embarrassed of it at the time. I didn’t know any better.
I begged for guitar lessons everyday. I had no idea how tough it would be for her to afford them, but somehow she managed to get me those lessons for the next couple of years. She knew how important it was to me. She was even able to buy me my first (used of course) electric guitar, a sunburst Epiphone Les Paul. I still use that guitar to teach everyday. A few years later, I went on my first tour and played hundreds of shows, and traveled all over the country. I received my bachelors degree in music shortly after that.
In 2001, I started standing in front of a Ralph’s supermarket, playing on a small amplifier with that same Les Paul, and passed out fliers for guitar lessons. I would drive all over the city giving lessons to my first group of students. In 2007, we came up with the name Encore School Of Music, and signed our first lease for an actual commercial space. Encore was born. One thing I was sure of when we first started Encore, was that there were going to be a lot of performances. People always say, “All these performances you guys do must be great marketing.” But marketing or getting more students through our performances was never the goal. My biggest regret was that my mom never saw me perform.
In 1996, she lost her battle to cancer and passed away. We do this because I believe every student deserves an opportunity to pay back the parents that sacrifice so much for them. Now that I have my own family and my own son, I finally get it. Watching my son sing at his first Christmas performance at school was absolutely priceless. I now know how parents must feel at our showcases and it makes all the hard work worth it.
Mom, I know you weren’t around long enough to see your son perform. And you’re not around now to see the results of your sacrifice. But now we have a music school and I have all these kids at Encore performing. Sure they’re there performing for their own parents, families and friends. But I hope every song performed these past 7 years, and years to come is also a tribute to the one who started it all. My mom.