Parsa’s Life-Altering Decision

This excerpt was taken from Parsa’s on-air segment on NPR’s From the Top Show 351 from Las Vegas, NV. For a more in-depth conversation, listen to the podcast-exclusive interview here.

On-Air Segment

“Hello, my name is Parsa Sabet. I am 18 years old and I play the guitar. I was born in Iran and I started playing guitar there when I was 12 years old.

My uncle used to be a classical guitarist and when I started playing guitar he gave me some old recordings and told me the stories behind them. I took lessons in a small music academy and that was the first time I heard classical guitar live and I fell in love with it. But like my uncle, not many people could make it as a classical musician in Iran, especially as minorities. My family is Bahai, which meant that I couldn’t go to any music academy or college because I am not a Muslim.

My parents wanted me to follow my dreams so one day my mom told me that “Your brother wants to leave. If you want to leave say it now so we all can go together.” And there I had to make a decision that would change my family’s future. After a few days, I told my mother that I wanted to leave like my brother.

So my mother, brother and I became refugees in Turkey and my father and other brother stayed in Iran. One of the hardest things I’ve ever done is say goodbye to my family, friends and the place I spent my childhood.

One of the hardest things I’ve ever done is say goodbye to my family, friends and the place I spent my childhood.

I was 15 years old in Turkey and they didn’t accept me as a student to receive credits. There was no music teacher for me and I couldn’t work because many people wouldn’t pay a refugee since they know we don’t have any power. It was a dark time for our whole family. Many people get depressed as refugees, especially as teenagers, but I played guitar all of the time and I told myself “I’ll do my best.” After a year and a half of waiting my life changed for the better.

Finally, I got my visa to the United States. While it was wonderful to be in America, I struggled with the language at my school. But the teachers and students at Sierra Vista High School in Las Vegas made me feel welcome. The teacher of ELL class, Connie McFarland became my mentor and close friend.”

“Parsa had been at our school maybe two weeks and we had a talent show. So I said, ‘Parsa, how about being in a talent show?” Well, he took that guitar and sat on that stage and he worked his magic. He won the talent show!Connie McFarland

“The first day I came to Sierra Vista I asked my counselor and Mrs. McFarland if there was a guitar class I could take. So they sent me to a beginner guitar class. After I played for the class the teacher came up to me gave me the number for Ricardo Cobo and that changed everything. It was hard to find time to get to see him because he’s so busy so, finally, I went to his home studio and knocked on the door.

“I was absolutely shocked that this young man came half-way across the world to ask me about guitar and after I heard two minutes of playing I was absolutely floored.” Ricardo Cobo

“Both Connie and Ricardo are now my role models. Their fingerprints will be on my life forever and I want to dedicate this performance [of Francisco Tarrega’s “Recuerdos de la Alhambra” and Jorge Morel’s “Danza in E minor”] to them.”

Listen to the interview and performance below.

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