Making “First Choice” Possible
Music major Daniel Cadena plays the harp, one of several instruments in his repertoire
Daniel Cadena was 15 the first time he picked up a violin, and he couldn’t get it to make a sound. He was in love with music, and eager to learn to play. Unfortunately, as a new arrival from Guerrero, Mexico, he didn’t have room in his schedule to join the orchestra because his counselor wanted him to double up on English classes at Santa Ana High School (SAHS).
Undeterred, he taught himself the violin and keyboard, using instruments his older sister had abandoned after she briefly pursued a degree in music education. Within a few months, he was reading music and composing songs.
“At the beginning, I really liked composing because I couldn’t communicate with people through verbal language, so I felt like writing music was the best way to communicate,” says Cadena.
When the SAHS strings teacher eventually heard Cadena play the violin, he immediately put him in the advanced orchestra.
As part of a partnership with the Claire Trevor School of the Arts where UCI students and faculty mentor high school students, and perform a concert side-by-side with them, Stephen Tucker, conductor of the UCI Symphony Orchestra, visited the SAHS orchestra and was impressed by Cadena’s chameleon-like musical ability. He played the violin, then suddenly he played the keyboard. When a harpist was needed, Cadena taught himself harp, too.
“Music transformed and gave my life a better path, and I want to do the same thing for other people and transform their lives as well. That’s one of my rules,” Cadena says. “Always give back.”
When Tucker heard that Cadena had financial concerns about affording UCI, Cadena was directed to the Office of Financial Aid to help him with a scholarship package.
“I really liked UCI because I feel like I’m home there,” said Cadena.
“Music transformed and gave my life a better path, and I want to do the same thing for other people and transform their lives as well. That’s one of my rules... always give back.” - Daniel Cadena
With funding from the Edna Helen Beach Scholarship and the Alice Lowell Memorial Scholarship, Cardena is now the only harpist at UCI. He also plays second chair violin in the orchestra and continues composing music. He is pursuing a double major in Spanish literature.
“It means the world to me that people donated money to help me achieve my goals in life,” expressed Cadena. “The opportunities that you have provided and opened for me are endless. Thank you so much for investing in my future.”
Cadena believes in giving back and visits his alma mater each week to teach harp to a sophomore, through the Claire Trevor School of the Arts Creative Connections program, which sends UCI arts students to work with K-12 arts education programs across Orange County.