Music changes lives, and for siblings Zachary and Isabella Gurganious, that statement couldn’t ring truer. As elementary school students, they had heard how music improves both concentration and grades. But it wasn’t until they were encouraged to join music programs by their school music teacher that Zachary and Isabella experienced the impact of music education first hand.
Zachary’s journey with music started as part of SDYS’ Community Opus Project, where he began playing violin. At the time, Opus provided free after-school music lessons to students at five elementary schools in Chula Vista, including his school, Otay Elementary. Zachary worked hard to learn his instrument and soon progressed to the advanced ensemble, Festejo. He participated in community events and some of his favorite Opus memories were performing with his friends at the Starlight Parade and Viva Musica.
Isabella was too young to join Opus but that didn’t stop her from signing up for orchestra at school. “My music teacher really needed viola players,” Isabella said. “I signed up just to see what would happen. I didn’t know how my life would go after that—but since then, it’s been awesome.”
The Gurganious siblings now both play in SDYS ensembles in Balboa Park. Zachary is in his second year in Symphonic Strings and Isabella is beginning her first season in Overture Strings. In just the past couple of years they have both seen how music is making a difference. Zachary has noticed his grades improving at school and Isabella says that playing music helps her find a better state of mind when she’s frustrated. Their parents see the difference too. “Everything about the grades is true,” said Chris Gurganious, Zachary and Isabella’s father. “For the past two years, Zachary has had almost perfect attendance and straight A’s in school.”
Above everything, music brings their entire family together. “We’ve gotten in the tradition of taking the instruments over to Grandpa and Grandma’s house at Christmas,” says mom, Mariela. She says they have a big family and the kids perform for all the grandparents and even their great-grandmother. Recently, Zachary and Isabella played at their uncle’s wedding ceremony, which was a special moment for everyone.
“It’s been a blessing for us that we get to share music with the family,” Mariela said. “Especially now that they get to play together—they’re finding duets that they can learn together. Those moments are nice.”
For the Gurganiouses, the opportunity to be in SDYS is about more than just music — it’s fostered a pathway to success and brought the family closer together.