grad caps

Swil Kanim is a classically trained violinist, U.S. Army veteran, Native storyteller and member of the Lummi Nation on the Puget Sound. He was to have been a featured performer at the Yakima Symphony Orchestra’s annual fundraiser, Raise the Baton, in March, which was first postponed and has since been reconfigured entirely to accommodate the temporary reality of our virtual-only environment.

Look soon for Kanim to share his voice online on behalf of the Yakima Symphony Orchestra, including a short performance of Beethoven’s magnificent “Ode to Joy,” a timeless reminder of the power of music to change lives and bring people together.

In a recent phone conversation, Kanim spoke eloquently of the transformative power of music education, and of the value of orchestral playing. A statement on his website indicates that he “considers himself and his music to be the product of a well-supported public-school music program. Music and the performance of music helped him to process the traumas associated with his early placement into the foster care system.”

Kanim’s words about the importance of his musical experiences as a student have special relevance at this time. Like countless others across the nation, this spring Yakima’s seniors turned their tassels and accepted their diplomas virtually, and the YSO has watched with pride as seven Yakima Youth Symphony Orchestra (YYSO) and Yakima Music en Acción (YAMA) students have become high school graduates. All will attend college in the fall, with their career interests spanning biology, business, engineering, global health, Japanese, music, music education and nursing.

Congratulations to:

Rachel Ball, horn, La Salle High School, three seasons in YYSO;

Annie Kang, flute, Ellensburg High School, two seasons in YYSO;

Enerida Mendoza, violin, Davis High School, seven seasons in YAMA;

Rae Park, violin, Davis High School, two seasons in YAMA;

Sophia Perales, violin, Davis High School, nine seasons in YYSO and the YYSO 2019-20 concertmaster;

Tate Schut, violin, Davis High School, six seasons in YYSO; and

Itzel Perez, viola, Davis High School, seven seasons in YYSO and seven seasons in YAMA.

This is the first YAMA cohort to graduate from high school since the program was established at Garfield Elementary School in 2013. It is a poignant milestone for students and YAMA faculty alike. YAMA teaching artist Jen Moultine has noted how instrumental Mendoza and Perez have been as they, alongside their teachers, pioneered and indeed helped shape this important program in our community.

Like thousands across the nation, the outward celebratory expressions of these graduating seniors have taken form in unusual ways. Families have gathered online via Zoom and other platforms, sometimes including people who otherwise could not have been present. These experiences may feel at first unfamiliar and isolating, yet together we all are creating new pathways and new connections to one another.

The universities and communities receiving this year’s graduating seniors will be fortunate as these are strong, creative individuals who are coming of age in a pandemic. We cannot begin to know the real and metaphorical music we will hear from them, but we look forward to hearing the symphonies they will compose for our world.

• Learn more about the Yakima Symphony Orchestra at

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