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Gaskins and her guitar: Junior learning to play like Jimi
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The Tower 

After volleyball practice, Manteca High junior Amil Gaskins sits down in her chair and grabs her guitar. Across the way, on the opposite wall, Jimi Hendrix stares back at her.  

She plugs her electric guitar into her amp and turns it on. She takes a deep breath and starts playing slowly, carefully clutching the neck of the guitar with her left hand, strumming the strings with her right.  

As she warms up, she is getting better and more comfortable on the guitar, the sound of the strumming captivates and grows louder and louder, until … 

Gaskins leaps from her chair, jumping up and dancing to the rhythmic tunes she is playing. This has been a familiar scene through the years: A girl with a guitar in one hand and a volleyball in the other, living life to the fullest with her diverse passions. Her journey from classic rock jams to volleyball courts is as intriguing as it is inspiring. 

When asked about her guitar journey, Gaskins credits classic rock legends like Jimi Hendrix and George Harrison for sparking her interest.

"They just have a way with the guitar, and it's just very interesting.” she said.

Their confidence and fearlessness in playing resonated deeply with her, inspiring her to pick up the instrument herself. Growing up in a musical household, Gaskins’ taste in music was shaped by her mom's love for Hendrix and her uncles' varied preferences. She reminisces, "My mother loves Jimi Hendrix throughout my childhood. She would always play it."

This exposure to different genres laid the foundation for her eclectic musical palette. 

Despite juggling her love for volleyball and guitar, Gaskins remains committed to both. She admits, "They do conflict with each other sometimes," but she always makes time for her guitar. Even with her intense volleyball training, she ensures that her passion for music doesn't take a back seat. "I practice every day at least once today and I go to lessons once a week and I have band rehearsal once a week."

Beyond her solo endeavors, Gaskins is an active member of a band, showcasing her collaborative spirit and musical prowess. Despite facing setbacks like changing band names due to personnel changes, she remains undeterred, embodying resilience and perseverance.  

Reflecting on Gaskins’ passion for music, her friend Nancy Zamora shares: "Amil is very passionate about it. ... She's pretty passionate about it."

As Gaskins strums her way through life's melodies and spikes her way through volleyball matches, she reminds us that pursuing our passions with fervor and dedication is the key to a fulfilling life. The Tower caught up with Gaskins to learn more about her inspirations, techniques, and passions that fuel her hobby of playing guitar. 

The Tower: What got you interested in playing guitar? 

Amil Gaskins: I was to a lot of classic rock music influences like Jimmy Hendricks and Jerry Garcia and George Harrison. They just have a way with the guitar and it's just very interesting.  

TT: What is it about the way they play the guitar? 

AG: They just exuberated a lot of like confidence in their guitar playing. They aren't afraid to make mistakes and I feel like that's a really important thing when you're in front of people and you're playing an instrument, and they have such a creative mind enough to indulge in it.  

TT: Who helped develop your musical taste?  

AG: My mother loved Jimi Hendrix throughout my childhood. She would always play it. She had this magnet; she had this huge poster in our house and always seeing a familiar face like you always see it throughout your life and then you realize like how interesting they really are. My mom's brothers they listen to a lot of R&B and then the other one listens to a lot of like rock music and so my mom is like a combination of both of those things. I get to listen to all of all the music genres. 

TT: How long have you been playing for? 

AG: Since seventh grade, so five years. 

TT: That’s impressive. Do you plan on having a career with it? 

AG: No, it’s more of just like a hobby. It’s like I just don’t feel like I can put enough time into like playing the guitar because I have other things going on. 

TT: Does playing sports get in the way of you playing guitar? 

AG: I play volleyball. They do conflict with each other sometimes. I do practice late, but I always try to make time for playing guitar. Coach Robin (Chandler) is very intense in my training. When you say, “Oh, I have to leave early.” She's like what why do you have to leave early and so she's like oh that's not a good reason to leave early, but it's something that I enjoy doing. I do enjoy playing volleyball. I still want to make time for this other hobby that I have. 

TT: Are you in a band, if so what's the name? 

AG: I am in a band, but we got a new drummer, so we have to change the name.  

TT: Do your family members or any other people play instruments? 

AG: Yes, my mom plays the piano and the ukulele and my uncle plays the bass and guitar, and my grandpa plays piano.  

TT: How often do you practice or do lessons? 

AG: I practice every day at least once today and I go to lessons once a week and I have band reversal once a week.  

TT: What kind of guitar do you play? 

TT: I do have an electric guitar. I have a lot (of) classic rock influences, so there are a lot of Blues-oriented songs. I like to improvise a lot with Blues and classic rock and bluegrass music as well. … All that stuff on an electric guitar doesn't sound right but the technique is still there, so I like to practice that because it's fun.