22-year-old Elijah Stevens left the Bahamas with $100 in his pocket to pursue his dreams of becoming a classical pianist.
“As soon as I started music lessons, I know that if was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” he said.
Stevens started playing piano in the 7th grade. After honing his skills and creating a portfolio, he was accepted into Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Florida. The school was able to provide a full scholarship for his undergrad. He graduated in December 2017, but further study was required to pursue a career as a professional musician. He wanted to go to Manhattan School of Music after learning that his idol, pianist Olga Kern, taught there.
“For the second time, [I had]put everything on the line once again, and traveled to New York, pursuing this dream,” he said.
Stevens arrived in New York in August 2018 hoping to be accepted to the school—but he didn’t get in. Though the blow caused him to question if he wanted to continue with music, he vowed to not give up on school.
The next time he would be able to audition for the school would be in March 2019, and have no place to go, he slept in his car.
“After staying some time in my car, I want to a homeless shelter,” he explained. “I was really hard, you know, not having any money, which eventually, because I couldn’t keep up with the payments from my car, I ended up losing, you know, my car as well. I was a, you know, scary experience and it was really tough.”
Stevens kept applying to schools like Manhattan School of Music, Hunter College, Columbia University — and was accepted into all three.