TAMPA — Abraham Tejeda plays five or six instruments, some better than others, the French horn most seriously.
"Music, to me, is my life," he said. "That's pretty much what I do."
Now graduating from Middleton High School, he wants to pursue a doctorate in music.
Monday brought him $10,000 closer to his goal.
Tejeda, 18, distinguished himself among 44 students who competed for a scholarship given by Hillsborough County School Board Chairwoman Candy Olson.
Olson won the $10,000 grant as part of an urban education leadership award in October through the Council of Great City Schools.
Tejeda learned he had won when Olson visited his classroom, along with principal Owen Young, School Board member and Middleton graduate Doretha Edgecomb, and a half-dozen print and television journalists.
It was the last period of the day, band class, and the students were rehearsing the score from Pirates of the Caribbean.
"Abraham, where are you?" Young asked after a brief announcement. Handshakes and photographs followed, with Tejeda grinning so broadly that his classmates complimented him on his dimples.
The students competing for the scholarship wrote essays, some citing personal hardships, one even criticizing some of the school district's instructional techniques, Olson said.
A committee reviewed the essays, and Olson said she was struck by several of Tejeda's qualities: He values the arts, he appreciates his teachers, and he already teaches music students at Sligh Middle School.
"Being in the band taught me how to be a leader, how to set both short-term and long-term goals, and how to work hard to achieve those goals," Tejeda wrote.
He described the importance of his band director's guidance, the challenge of becoming head drum major, and the enjoyment he gets helping others improve.
In addition to his work at Middleton and Sligh, Tejeda performs and teaches at Revealing Truth Ministries.
He plans to major in music education at Miles College in Fairfield, Ala. Eventually, he hopes to get a doctorate at Berklee College of Music in Boston.
Marlene Sokol can be reached at (813) 226-3356 or [email protected]