Musician moves forward in college

Maddie Davis

Playing with a purpose: Senior Diego Huaman plays his acoustic guitar with drummer John Walker and the Woodcrest band on March 17 during the church service. Huaman will attend Berklee College of Music in the fall, pursuing his dream of performing. Photo by Asa Lory

As senior Diego Huaman looked out the aircraft’s window, he waited for the nerves to set in for his audition. Walking onto the Berklee College of Music-Boston’s campus, however, he only felt a wave of calm.

While setting up his looper pedal, saxophone and acoustic guitar, Huaman wondered if he would regret his confident and relaxed attitude for the audition that would decide his life plans.

“That audition was the scariest thing because it was almost too relaxed,” Huaman said. “I don’t get nervous when I play in front of people because I’m just in my zone and super comfortable. But I felt like I should have been nervous for that audition, so it was pretty scary because I thought I must have done something wrong.”

Huaman flew to Boston Jan. 14 to try out for the music school.

Since he did not apply early action, Huaman was prepared to wait until March 31 to learn if he was admitted. But on Jan. 31, he received the email he was waiting for since he was a child.

Because he opened the email at midnight while he was tired, Huaman did not believe he was truly accepted to the Berklee School of Music. After re-reading the email in the morning, Huaman called the school to find out he was accepted early because he finished his application by Jan. 15. Later that same day, he received a letter through the post office confirming his acceptance and cementing his certainty for the future.

He knew he had accomplished his life-long dream of attending Berklee, and although Huaman considered Manhattan School of Music and University of Miami, Berklee has been his number one choice since eighth grade. He discovered the school after looking at famous musicians’ Wikipedia pages, such as John Mayer and Joe Lovano.

“John [Mayer] is my biggest influence,” Huaman said. “He just writes good music, and that’s all you need. My absolute passion is to perform, but while we don’t have to pick a major until the third year, I’d like to put an emphasis on performance and production and engineering. Whatever I end up doing isn’t going to feel like a job. It’s going to be me doing my passion every day of my life.”

Huaman writes music, sings and plays acoustic guitar. He began playing the saxophone in sixth grade when he signed up for band in order to have class with his friends.

Now Huaman’s class schedule consists of jazz ensemble, band, choir, concert band and AP music theory. He also takes saxophone lessons with Berklee alumni Jack Falby. Falby believes Huaman deserves his chance of a lifetime.

“An audition is a moment in time which can’t be completely controlled, so I’m pleased it worked out,” Falby said. “After 20 more years of intense development and application of his talents, I’ll be lucky if Diego calls me up to play on his records.”

Although Huaman credits a lot of his improvement as a musician to Falby, he believes he would not be where he is now without the creative arts team at Woodcrest Church. Huaman plays most weekends at Woodcrest, a place where he has found more than just success in music thanks to the advisers at his church.

“The mission [Woodcrest] has is incredible. The whole thing is to reach out to those who are broken, and that really connects to me,” Huaman said. “I want to write songs to the broken and plant seeds of hope in their lives. It’s great to perform and have a product. You want the congregation to understand what you’re doing it for. It’s not about flashy pictures, flashy lights.”

Huaman uses inspiration he finds at church to write songs. He also incorporates conversations he has with peers and adults.

However, those fragments of his life do not permit Huaman to easily write lyrics. He considers himself a perfectionist, often having writer’s block.

“There have been times where I’ve thought, ‘I’m never going to be as good as Jimi Hendrix. I’m never going to be as good as Kenny Garrett,’” Huaman said. “But then I wake up from those dark days, and I realize, I’m not Jimi [Hendrix]. I realize I’m not John [Mayer]. I can’t be defined by my success or from my failure. People don’t view others like that but it’s important to me to remember that this is what I love and this is my passion.”

Even with his own positive attitude, Huaman has received mixed reactions from his peers and adults because of his plans to attend a music school. He often feels he is letting down friends by attending an unconventional college. Although the responses can be negative, Huaman plans to follow his dreams.

“When I tell people where I’m going, I can feel the disappointment,” Huaman said. “Their doubt does make me want to prove them wrong, but that’s not what it’s about. I don’t want to be remembered as the guy who tried; I want to be remembered as the guy who went forward. I want to be remembered as the guy who wasn’t scared and as the guy who followed my passion and followed what I love to do.”

By Maddie Davis