Music is a part of 14-year-old Nadia Azzi's everyday life. The urge to rehearse on the piano or violin and to study new music comes as naturally to Nadia as eating or breathing.
When she's not working on homework, her fingers are dancing across the keys of a piano or delicately grasping her violin's bow.
Nadia will be a featured performer at the Richey Community Orchestra's "The Music of Dance" concert. The orchestra, which has 50 professional and amateur musicians, will perform at The Center for the Arts at River Ridge at 3 p.m. today.
Nadia will be featured in Grieg's "Piano Concerto in A minor" and DeBariot's "Violin Concerto Scene de Ballet."
In addition, the Bay City Ballet will present dances from two Tchaikovsky-scored ballets.
Nadia, a Palm Harbor resident, flew home from New York City last week to rehearse and perform with the Richey Community Orchestra. She and her mother, Kaori Azzi, share a tiny apartment around the corner from the Juilliard School in Manhattan. Nadia is in a weekend pre-college program at the famed school for the arts at Lincoln Center.
Mother and daughter return home during school breaks or for local performances.
This is Nadia's first time performing on piano and the violin with the 56-year-old community orchestra, which gives six concerts a year. She is, however, no stranger to the concert stage. She made her debut at Carnegie Hall as an 11-year-old and returned in 2012 to perform again.
Nadia has performed in Italy and Canada and the United States. She's won more awards than she can remember, including the 2012 Tampa Bay Symphony Young Artist Competition.
Kaori Azzi, who imports and exports pianos, said her daughter has been around musical instruments all her life. Nadia started piano lessons at 4 to help her academics. Nadia remains a straight-A student and has to keep her grades up if she wants to keep performing.
"I read so much material about how classical music helps kids to concentrate and do well in math and academically," Kaori Azzi said. "Plus, it's good to have something to share and enjoy and enrich her life."
Her parents have invested in the Florida Prepaid College Plan, but Nadia has her heart set on attending a music conservatory, not a traditional four-year college or university. This means Nadia needs to earn scholarships to fund her ambitions.
Music is so much a part of Nadia's life that she doesn't have a backup plan, she said. She can't think of anything she'd rather do.
Her parents worry. They'd prefer for her to attend a university and have a back-up plan in case music doesn't work out.
"I'm trying to convince her music is very tough to make a living off," Kaori Azzi said. "Right now she's too young and wants this for her entire life. At 14, maybe things could change in a different direction but if it doesn't, we are ready to support her decisions."
During week days, Nadia attends the Professional Performing Arts School, a New York high school that offers core academic classes, in addition to performing arts electives. She takes honors courses, and as she becomes an upperclassman plans to take advanced placement and dual enrollment courses.
Her father, who was a lawyer in Lebanon and lost everything in the civil war there, told Nadia that the only thing that couldn't be stolen from him was the education he earned. Kaori Azzi was in a high school rock band in Japan and carried her drumsticks to school and on the subway. Her parents, however, wouldn't let her pursue music professionally so she came to the United States from to study business administration.
Together, Nadia's parents make up a team that encourages her to pursue academics and her dreams. Her mother doesn't want to Nadia to wonder "what if?" They're also happy that through PPAS and Juilliard, Nadia has made friends who share her passions.
"She got to point where she was an oddball," Kaori Azzi said. "She had a lot of friends but inside, what's most important for her, the music, she couldn't find friends that loved music at the same level.
"Now she's happier because she sees a lot of friends who have the same passion."
If you go
If you go
What: Richey Community Orchestra's "The Music of Dance" concert
Where: The Center for the Arts at River Ridge. It is located on the campus of River Ridge Middle-High School, 11646 Town Center Road, New Port Richey.
When: 3 p.m. today
Cost: Tickets for the show, $15, can be purchased at the door. No credit cards are accepted.