by KELLY GUSICH | photos by Alicia Jeanne Photography

Words and Music

After living with her parents and brother Alex for the past 12 years in San Elijo Hills, Maia Nilsson has just begun her career at San Marcos High School (SMHS). Already she is struck by the vast amounts of school spirit. “The pep rallies are deafening,” she said with a smile. “The people at school really do identify themselves as Knights, and the sense of community in the band is incredible to witness.” With music having a central importance in her life, Maia has ample opportunity to participate. After a brief try at the piano when she was younger, she didn’t really find her bliss until middle school. “I don’t think I’d ever wanted to learn something with as much certainty as I did when I picked up my first trombone,” Maia affirmed. “In a year, I went from not knowing a thing about music to being in the top band at San Elijo Middle School.” Last year she was in every permutation of the band possible, from Symphonic Winds and Gig Band, to the Honor Band, Pep Band, and even San Elijo Middle School’s (SEMS) string group.

student_nilsson_1Her accomplishments within and outside band are many. In her middle school’s Solo and Ensemble Festival, Maia received “excellent” and “superior” ratings for her viola solo and her low brass quartet and Dixieland ensemble, and even got an award from the San Diego Music Studio for achievement on viola. This year she’s in Wind Ensemble at SMHS, which is the highest band a freshman can be in. She also loves writing, and was the SEMS 2016 Poetry Slam Champion. Because of that win, Maia gets to return to this year’s competition as a judge.

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Maia’s proudest achievement, however, is her time on a panel at this summer’s Comic-Con. Speaking about the concept of nerdiness and how attitudes are changing toward nerdy things like comics and science, Maia shared ideas regarding how to raise children to be confident and proud of the things they enjoy. She sees inspiration all around: “My parents are both hardworking, intelligent individuals who I strive to emulate, and I greatly admire the work ethic and emotional maturity that I see in my peers.”
And while it might surprise some readers, most will smile at Maia and understand utterly when she explains, “I can rap every word to the Broadway musical Hamilton, including the part during ‘Guns and Ships’ where the lyrics come at six words per second.”


Name: Maia Nilsson (14)
School: San Marcos High School
Grade: 9
Parents’ Names: Grace Mendoza-Nilsson; Andreas Nilsson
Siblings: Alex Nilsson (11)
Favorite Local Spot: Double Peak Park

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