by AMY LEHRER | photos by Dawn at Nicoli Productions

Big Dreamer

Sometimes parents have to motivate their children because they lack initiative and drive. In Toni and David D’Andrea’s case, however, their parenting responsibilities are easy. Their 12-year-old internally motivated and driven daughter already excels in art, music, and sports and has lofty career plans.

“What I enjoy most about music is playing for others; I love to entertain.”

student02Artistic Milena appreciates the beautiful surroundings of San Elijo Hills, particularly enjoying the numerous parks and hiking trails as well as the picturesque town square surrounded by shops. A versatile student, Milena’s current classes at Classical Academy Vista include science, speech and debate, music, art, computer coding, math, and language arts. She revealed, “My favorite class in school is art. I love to draw and my teacher is awesome.” In school art shows she has won best of grade in kindergarten, second, and fourth grades. Also in fourth grade, she won best of school (K-8).
Milena’s parents exposed her to classical music and jazz early and enrolled her in piano lessons at age seven. For the past five years, she has trained with Ms. Barbara Menzie. Milena shared, “What I enjoy most about music is playing for others; I love to entertain.” She also loves composing and recently entered a state-wide musical composition competition. Additionally, she takes Certificate of Merit tests which require three memorized classical pieces, scales, sight-reading, and a theory and ear-training written test. To date she has completed levels three and four with branch honors and is working toward level five.

Encouraged by her parents, Milena began taking karate at age five in the Tiger Program at AK Karate. She practices Tang Soo Do in the Moo Duk Kwan style. After six years of training, she earned her first degree black belt and hopes to test for her second degree black belt next year. “The most rewarding part for me is accomplishing my goals so I can make new ones,” explained Milena. So far she holds two world champion gold medals in karate forms and has more than 30 first place trophies from local competitions.

Inspired by her mom’s tenacity and her father’s drive, Milena has many future aspirations. She plans to become a piano teacher in high school and college, attend college, earn a law degree, minor in musical theory, open a karate school, and become President of the United States. If her current track record is an indicator of life success, she will perform admirably.


Name: Milena D’Andrea (12)
School: The Classical Academy Vista
Grade: 6
Parents: Toni and David D’Andrea
Sibling: David D’Andrea, Jr. (28)
Favorite place in 92078: Our home and neighborhood