Why Music Matters

A young artist in Seattle named Vivi Perez almost gave up on high school — that is, until a community activist group introduced her to the music business. Perez tells her story for our series "Why Music Matters."

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GUY RAZ, HOST:

Every few weeks on the program, we've been running an occasional series called Why Music Matters, where we bring you the stories of music fans in their own words, about how certain songs or even bands have changed their lives. Today's story comes from a young artist in Seattle. Her name is Vivi Perez, and she almost gave up on high school, that is until a community activist group called El Centro de la Raza introduced her to the music business.

VIVI PEREZ: I felt kind of, like, I didn't know where I was going a lot in high school.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Please respond when I call your name.

PEREZ: I probably would've graduated eventually. With school, we're told so much about what we need to study instead of what we want to study. In my high school, there wasn't anything that I was interested in there. I was like, oh, whatever. I don't want to go to third period. Let's go somewhere else. We weren't doing anything productive. We were just, like, sitting there.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Singing) I am empty, empty, baby, yeah.

PEREZ: El Centro de la Raza comes into my high school and talks a lot. And the guy who was running it was like, hey, I have this really cool music program. It's called Youngstown. Stepping into Youngstown, it was an amazing feeling my first day. There was art everywhere. You heard music going down the halls. There's people saying hi to you. Even if you don't know them, they would still walk up and be like, hi. And they'd introduce themselves.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

PEREZ: (Reading) He wondered why his life has brought him here, the same boring job day after day, not asking any questions, never getting any answers.

I did the music program with them during summer. And then what they did is they were like, oh, we're going to start a youth record label. My best friend went to the meeting first. She was like, you should check this out.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Singing) I wish I knew what I know before I became this...

PEREZ: Every Tuesday, Thursday, we'd meet. Youngstown Records would meet. And that was the little record label we started at Youngstown. We have our own responsibility for the group. Like, they'd be like, oh, you're coming with this, this week. You're coming with information about a show next week. It wasn't the same responsibilities like, oh, you have homework or you have an essay.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Singing) I wish I knew who I was when I was me...

PEREZ: I learned how to use that at school and learned how to use that, you know, when I was working on projects with a group. I'd be like, oh, I definitely will do this part. So it's definitely taught me a lot to, you know, do what I wanted to do but also doing what I had to do first. Like, if I wanted to do a song, I'd have to sit there. And I'd have to think about it and, you know, discipline myself to finish it.

And, you know, as I started doing those customs when I was writing a song, I'd start doing that when I was doing homework or when I was doing a project or when I was doing an essay. I'd be like, no, I have to finish this.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

PEREZ: My dad has always been, you know (unintelligible) music is important, but he hasn't really gotten (unintelligible) as much as music did.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

RAZ: That's Vivi Perez with Why Music Matters. Our series comes to us from independent producer Anna Boiko-Weyrauch. And if you're just joining us, you're listening to WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz.

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