Above, Venice High senior Kiev Morales is a professional musician who frequently performs on the Santa Monica Pier. (Photo courtesy of Kiev Morales.)
This is part of a series of stories about outstanding graduates of the Class of 2018.
It’s late spring, and thousands of L.A. Unified seniors are preparing to walk across the graduation stage filled with dreams of what they will become in the years ahead.
For Venice High senior Kiev Morales, his dream has already come true.
Having studied the violin for a mere seven years, the 18-year-old is already performing professionally.
“Music is my passion and my life,” he said. “I don’t foresee doing anything in my future that doesn’t involve music.”
When not in class, Kiev spends just about every waking minute astounding audiences with his unique renditions of popular music. The notes soar into the air as he moves about rhythmically, his fingers flying furiously about the strings with raw energy and pitch perfection.
When he is not booked to play at a wedding, a quinceañera or other private party, he’s dazzling passers-by on the Third Street Promenade or the Santa Monica Pier.
“This is what I do,” he said. “Once the summer is here, I will be performing full time.”
Kiev’s mother, Carmina, says she knew when her son was born that music had special meaning for him.
“I would play classical music for him as I held him as a baby,” she said. “It always relaxed him and helped him sleep. As he got older, he was a hyper child, and his father and I discovered that music was what he needed to be calm and focused.”
Kiev said he first became interested in the violin at age 7 when he spotted a street performer playing pop music on the Promenade. It motivated him to take music lessons, and he took to the instrument very quickly.
By his middle school years, however, he says he felt a rift between conventional music instruction and the direction he was headed in.
“I mostly played by ear,” he said. “My way of playing and improvising didn’t fit with expectations, and so I was advised to quit music and try something else.”
Kiev’s mom says not giving up was the most important decision he ever made.
“I am so proud of him for believing in himself just as we believed in him,” she added. “He decided to pursue what he was passionate about despite what others told him. And look at him now. He’s a model to students everywhere for following their dreams.”
Nowadays, Kiev can frequently be seen performing in the exact same spot on the Promenade where he remembers spotting the street performer a decade ago. He has also performed in Las Vegas, Florida, Hawaii and his parents’ native Mexico.
After graduating from Venice High, Kiev plans to study music at Santa Monica College and then transfer to the University of Southern California. He aspires to work as a studio musician or on stage with other professionals.
“I chose USC because they have a pop music program you won’t find at most universities,” he said. “Plus, it’s not far from home, and my friends and family are the greatest influences in my life.”
He also credits former Venice High Principal Oryla Wiedoeft with contributing to his success.
“I really want to thank Dr. Wiedoeft for creating so many opportunities for me to perform ” he said. “Her encouragement and support really helped me grow as a performer with all the chances to play live in front of enthusiastic crowds.”
Wiedoeft described Kiev as a “shining star.”
“Kiev is truly an inspiration,” she said. “Along with being extremely talented, he is highly dedicated to practicing and improving his craft. He is resilient and fearless, going after ‘rising star’ competitions and any opportunity to perform.”
Kiev’s parents — whom he describes as his greatest supporters — follow their son to every performance. He describes them as his agents, event coordinators and managers. Both entrepreneurs, they’ve done their best to instill a sense of duty and responsibility in Kiev.
“He is a true professional,” his mother says. “He works very hard, always striving to perfect his craft. And he pays taxes just like everyone else.”
While Kiev’s talent in music is undeniable, his business acumen is equally apparent.
“If you know anybody who needs to hire a musician for a wedding, party or special event, please tell them to give me a call,” he said as he left for an afternoon engagement. “Here’s my card.”