graduate carolina ramosIt's often said that success in college – and life – requires a fair bit of improvisation. Few students know that, as well as Carolina Ramos, a Broward College student whose role in the College jazz combo and big band helped her confidently navigate the highs and lows of college life.

All that practice – both on the bandstand and in the classroom – will pay off when she graduates on May 9 with an Associate of Arts degree focusing on Music Theory. After the confetti has settled and her mortar board tassel has been moved from right to left, she will be able to transpose the skills she acquired at Broward College into a fulfilling career as a professional musician. As this 20-year-old musician moves into the next phase of her life, it will be with an understanding of what makes top-tier organizations – from jazz bands to Math classes to Fortune 500 companies – really swing.

Playing in Harmony

Most musicians will tell you that the strength of a band comes from the variety of its voices. That's certainly the case for Carolina. Growing up in the South Florida community, she valued the student body at Broward College, whose jazz band, like the community it serves, comprises a range of perspectives, ideas, backgrounds, and experiences. The vivacity is part of the reason Carolina chose to attend the College in the first place.

"Broward College is a remarkably eclectic school in terms of its people and its talents," said Carolina. "Everyone I have met in the Music department has been part of my molding as a musician and person. I would not be where I am today without the help of those amazing people."

Carolina drew on the many strengths of her community, both at school and at home, to pull herself through the stresses that came with being a college student during the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the past few years, her family struggled financially. Carolina sometimes found it difficult to focus on her school ambitions because she had to work to help pay for necessities.

Finding her Rhythm

But that wasn't the only difficulty Carolina experienced during this time. Other problems were music related. In 2021, she discovered she had focal dystonia, a neurological condition affecting muscle groups' movement and efficiency associated with repetitive tasks. In severe cases, it can make it impossible for musicians to play their instruments, sometimes for years. In Carolina's case, she had trouble handling the keys of her saxophone, and the muscles in her face would tire quickly after short periods of playing. 

That diagnosis could have been devastating for a musician like Carolina, who is determined to make a career out of her craft. But if Broward College taught her anything, it's that education can open a full spectrum of opportunities. So she learned to manage her focal dystonia and pressed on.

"Although it is something that will not go away, I found that I can live with it," she said. "It helped me learn how to manage my time between practice and resting."

Overcoming the challenge of focal dystonia made her a better, more patient saxophone player and helped her discover her untapped talent as a composer. In April of 2022, she was nominated for and received a scholarship from the National League of American Pen Women, whose goal is to support and promote creative excellence and professional standards among women in the arts. Carolina won in the category of composer and received $1,000 in scholarship funds. She attributed her success with the scholarship to the help of her bandleader, Professor Jason Furman.

"He has pushed me to become the best version of myself this spring semester," she said, "not only as a musician but as a person as well. I'm very grateful to have him as my professor!"

The Next Act

Now that her time at Broward College has ended, she's ready to step out for her solo act. She has received a full scholarship to Florida Atlantic University and another to Berklee College of Music in Massachusetts. After graduating, she hopes to attend one of these universities to pursue a bachelor's degree in film scoring. Her ultimate goal is to write music for video games and movies someday.

When she walks across the stage at Broward College's Spring 2023 Commencement Ceremony at the Broward Convention Center on May 9, she will be leaving behind a community that valued her own voice as a musician and as a scholar. She will be taking with her a handful of life lessons, including one that musicians know well: that practice makes perfect.

"I forget sometimes that progress takes time, a lot of it," says Carolina. "And I understand that it is not too late to make more progress. My teachers are always reminding me of where I started and where I am now. Although it is hard for me to see that progress, I must keep an open mindset that time, along with failure, is an important stepping stone to success."

Are you interested in joining a world-class accredited institution for musical creativity, performance, and education? Learn more about Broward College's music program and degree offerings.

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