Who are Osiel Dominguez and Diego Barrera? How virtual piano lessons brought NYC teens together

Osiel and Barrera each found a friend, someone with whom they may not have crossed paths if not for the virtual piano lessons


                            Who are Osiel Dominguez and Diego Barrera? How virtual piano lessons brought NYC teens together
Partnership Schools set up Diego Barrera and Osiel Dominguez's virtual piano lessons and they started meeting virtually every Thursday. (Image used for representation: Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images)

NEW YORK CITY: Virtual piano lessons brought two NYC teens together during the lockdown. Osiel Dominguez, an eighth-grader from East Harlem, New York met Diego Barrera, an eleventh-grader, during online piano classes. Osiel, who is a student at Partnership Schools' Our Lady Queen of Angels, was determined to use his time during the lockdown for good.

Osiel Dominguez told CBS News that he hated sitting at home ever since he was a little kid. "So my dad would always joke around, 'We're going to put you guys in a mariachi band.'" Osiel added, "He's like, 'You're going to play accordion and your brother's going to play guitar.' And I was like, 'I don't want to play that. I want to play the piano one day, '" and he finally decided to earn the piano during the pandemic.

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Osiel's mom bought him a shortened keyboard and he started teaching himself how to play at home. When one of his teachers heard he was teaching himself, he asked if he'd like an instructor. That's when Diego Barrera, an 11th-grader at Collegiate School and an accomplished pianist came into the picture. Barrera wanted to use his skills to help others, so he reached out to a family friend who worked at Partnership Schools and offered to help students learn piano. Barrera told CBS News, "I remember when I was in middle school and I had a peer teacher, who I called a practice buddy. And it was really rewarding, I loved it. So, I wanted to do the same thing for somebody else."

Partnership Schools set up Barrera and Osiel's virtual piano lessons. They started meeting virtually every Thursday and in just a matter of months, Osiel went from playing 'Chopsticks' to preparing for his first performance at his eighth-grade graduation. Barrera said, "You would think that you can't teach piano by yourself, but in our first lesson, Osiel played the first half of 'Für Elise,' which I thought was really, really impressive to do by yourself." He added, "It's doable, especially if you love to learn and really want to improve. And I immediately saw that in Oisel."

While being stuck at home like most people, Osiel and Barrera each found a friend, someone with whom they may not have crossed paths if not for the virtual piano lessons. Barrera said, "I'm a firm believer that music is a connector. So, this is kinda the perfect example of that, at a time when everybody needed it the most. And as the world is opening back up again, it's fun to see Osiel and I have really developed our relationship, which has been all around music and all around the piano."

Osiel mentioned that piano gave him something to focus on other than school. "When I had nothing to do, I'd come here and play," he said.

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