“You Think You Can Handle It?”, Elijah Awada Says Thanks

“You Think You Can Handle It?”, Elijah Awada Says Thanks

Our instructors are the backbone of our work, bringing the healing power of music to Walker|West students each year.

Here Elijah Awada reflects on the impact of his time learning from Walker|West faculty member Mr. William Duncan:


Dear Mr. Duncan,

I am writing to you today to bid you a proper farewell and to express my immense gratitude for all the wisdom, encouragement and guidance you have offered me in my years as your student. You have always said that I am a man of few words. My quiet, introverted nature has often prevented me from adequately conveying my ideas and emotions, especially in moments of great significance. With this letter, I hope to express how important your influence, along with that of Walker|West has been in my growth as a musician and as an emerging adult.

When I first came to Walker|West at the age of 9 or 10, I was about four and a half feet tall with a giant mound of hair on my head and an eagerness to be a musician. I remember my first few lessons with you and how amazed I was by your effortless touch and firm command of the piano. I would smile from ear to ear as I tried to keep up with your hands as they danced on the keys and made sounds that I had never heard before. All I wanted, really, was to watch you play, but you made sure that I was the one playing for the majority of each lesson. In those early days, you planted a seed in me that turned my interest in music into a passion. I told myself that one day, I would be able to play and understand music on the same level that you did. That aspiration holds true today, although I’m still far from achieving it.

Today, I am 18 years old, six feet-two inches, and I have tamed my hair a bit. Looking back on these years, all the lessons, recitals, and home practice sessions, I can say that under your instruction, I have come a long way. You have introduced me to an incredible variety of genres and composers, we have worked on pieces from the likes of J.S. Bach, Mozart, and Rachmaninoff, as well as Herbie Hancock, Vince Guaraldi, and Jean -Lue Ponty. You have instilled in me a respect for fundamentals, etiquette, and mechanics, while also stressing the importance of truly feeling and hearing what I am playing. You have worked me tirelessly on scales and fingering, which after a long while, I have become very grateful for.

You have brought me to every corner of the Walker|West building to receive valuable feedback from many different musical perspectives. You have given me the historical context to all of the music that I have played, including explaining to me the role of the african american community in pioneering a vast majority of what we consider American Music. You have even given me the tools to find my own sound and composition style. Like I’ve said in the past. “It’s all your fault!” What I really mean by that, is thank you. Thank you for your wisdom, humor, patience, and care as you lead me through each theory concept and piece of music. Your interactive teaching style has developed me as both a performer and observer of music. I now understand the difference between knowing how to play something versus knowing what it is that I’m playing. It has drastically expanded the limits of my abilities.

To conclude this letter, I would like to say one final thank you and goodbye. I am incredibly grateful for the support you have shown me in my work at Walker|West, as well as in my personal endeavors. Your belief in me is empowering. It is very difficult for me to part with something that has had such a profound impact on my being, but the gift of music I’ve received at Walker|West will last me a lifetime. In times of joy or suffering, music will always be there to offer me comfort. The road ahead is bound to throw many obstacles in my way, but each time I am met with a challenge I will hear your voice saying, “You think you can handle it?” And to that, I will reply, “Yes, I can”.

Thank You, Mr. Duncan. I will keep in touch, and will be back to visit Walker|West often.

Forever your student,
Elijah Awada

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