'God kept me strong inside'
I'm originally from Bolivia. I was adopted at age 5 into a family in Montana, and I'm one of 18 in the family. My adopted family was more like a children's home than a family. There were 12 of us that were adopted, and out of the 12, I felt like the "black sheep" of the family and didn't really grasp until later the extensive abuse I had gone through. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy, but I am grateful for the strength and resilience I learned because it made me who I am today.
We all played music in some form. I did piano for about six months and then everyday it became, "Can I play the accordion?" because my brother did it and it looked like so much fun. My parents finally said OK. My brother and I did some duets together, but I continued going forward – I fell in love with the music and the sound.
Music was a life support for me. And because of all the abuse, I would hide in my music. The accordion is a physical instrument – you really feel the nuance of the music. When a child isn't allowed or encouraged to voice their thoughts, opinions or viewpoints, their voice is taken from them. Music and the accordion became my voice until I discovered and could use my own voice.