Jacob (far left) in Africa.

I joined the conservatory when I was 12. My best friend asked me to learn to play guitar so we could be in a band together. I thought I was signing up for music lessons; that perhaps I’d be spending a couple hours each week practicing by myself and another hour or two rehearsing with the band. What I found, though, was an opportunity to immerse myself in the art of leadership. The conservatory engaged me at every level. It presented me with challenges that allowed me to discover what I was truly capable of. Music was the vehicle, and I thrived with a guitar in my hand. So many of the lessons – and so much of the work – extended beyond music. I learned how to present myself publicly, how to perform and engage an audience even when I wasn’t fully practiced, how to receive feedback and incorporate it into my work. I had opportunities to meet community dignitaries and participate in conversations that few teenagers can access. And I’ve carried these lessons with me well past graduation. When I come across a tight deadline or a problem I’ve never seen before, I think back to my conservatory days, channel the sense that the conservatory imbued that everything is possible when you put enough effort into it, hum Seasons of Love, and get to work. – Jacob Eichengreen

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