World Link YES Program alum Shadman Ornab ’17 (Bangladesh/IA) has always had a passion for music, but according to him, it was the surprise welcome gift from his host family that was the real kickstart to his musical journey.
While majoring in Aerospace Engineering, Shadman still finds time to practice his skills and further develop his love for music almost every day.
Before His Exchange Year:
I have always loved music and wanted to perform on stage. When I was in third grade, I auditioned for a group performance. Everyone got selected except me.
That day I practiced that one song and went to the teacher again for another chance. I remember clearly that during my second tryout, the teacher told me I don’t have the “voice for singing”.
After that, I lost interest in singing and any musical instruments. I still loved listening to music but I lost interest in any kind of musical performance.
It wasn’t until the end of 2015, I picked up a guitar again when my friend brought one. Soon, I was watching guitar performances on YouTube that caught my attention.
In February of 2016, I saved some money and bought a cheap guitar just so I can learn to play. I was learning by myself, with the help of YouTube videos. I did not have access to any music teacher or institution. The progress was very little because without a teacher as it’s hard to figure out what to learn next. Plus, I had very little idea about the different genres of music.
My Exchange Year
In August 2016, I arrived in the USA and this was the real kickstart of my journey in music. Noticing my interest in musical instruments, my amazing host parents, Jason and Christina Smith, bought me a guitar as a welcome present.
They both love and enjoy music. Often, my host dad would listen to rock music while my host mom listened to country music. Whenever we drove somewhere, the radio was always on. They introduced me to a whole new world of music I hadn’t heard before. I remember some funny moments which include them telling me “It will take us a whole year to give you lessons on just the different types of songs and bands in America.”
During the exchange year, I practiced my skills almost every single day and learned new song intros. My host parents often showed me different songs and guitar solos. This motivated me to be better at playing the guitar like those amazing guitarists.
I joined the band in Atlantic High School and this turned out to be an amazing experience. I met a wonderful group of people and our music teacher was very friendly and helpful. Performing in a high school band requires knowledge of music notes, which I lacked. However, my classmates helped me a lot to understand the basics.
I was also interested in learning to play drums. My music teacher gave me some practice exercises and let me practice with an electronic drum set during my free period.
On top of helping me discover new music, my host family supported my passion in other ways. My host mom drove me to afternoon practices and to performances and my host dad even bought an acoustic guitar to learn to play right alongside me.
While learning to play solos and balance the guitar rhythm with songs, I noticed the importance of learning guitar scales and learned some most frequently used scales. Watching documentaries and interviews of bands helped me to understand how they perform and come up with new music.
Listen to Shadman’s cover of Maroon 5’s song, “Memories”, here:
I practiced singing and saw a drastic improvement within a few months after I returned home to Bangladesh. Although I have a small vocal range, I have been trying to make the best use of it. I came to understand it’s not about what kind of voice a person has but how to use your voice to hit the right notes at the right time. I finally understood what my 3rd-grade music teacher wanted to mean when he said I don’t have the “voice for singing”.
At the same time, I got interested in fingerstyle guitar playing. I still did not have the access to lessons from a music school but my knowledge of music I gained from my exchange year made it easier for me to learn.
Again, I used YouTube videos to learn the elements of fingerstyle guitar and played many fingerstyle versions of songs. I have been practicing my singing and guitar skills almost every day and I continue to learn songs and techniques.
If there is any song that is stuck in my head, I learn it no matter what. If there are no music sheets available, I learn it by trying to recognize the notes from the song just by playing the song at a slower speed.
Finding His Own Voice
In 2020, I finally wrote my first song including the guitar riffs. When it comes to music and performing on stage, I still have a long way to go. I found out a music club at my university holds musical performances on a stage. I’m hoping once we return to campus, I will get the opportunity to perform and make this my dream of performing on stage a reality.
I know if I can keep practicing and keep aiming forward despite the challenges I face, I will reach my goals soon.
My [exchange] year was life-changing in many ways and full of personal growth. My reignited passion for music and all the things I learned, like effective communication, proper time management, helping others, and trying new things, have been helping me to be a better version of myself every day.