Talented Chamorro teenager goes to Stanford


Seventeen-year-old Joseph Diaz, currently a senior at Oak Ridge High School in El Dorado Hills, California, was able to get a slot in the prestigious Stanford University in California where the acceptance rate for school year 2019 was 4.3 percent or only 2,040 students from an applicant pool of almost 50,000 students. He will start college in the Fall of 2019.

His talent in music was a contributing factor in his journey into the prestigious school. He has been playing the trombone since he was 9 years old.

Diaz was born and raised in California to parents Anthony and Jennibeth Diaz. Anthony is Chamorro and is the son of Bernice Pangelinan Diaz and the late Ramon DLG Diaz. Joseph has two siblings, Benjamin Ramon Diaz and Mia Claire Diaz.

According to Anthony, Joseph’s musical inkling is attributed to his father side of the family.

“…I was a singer throughout college and his great-great-grandfather, Jose Sablan Pangelinan, played just about any instrument and composed many Chamorro songs including the anthem, still sung today,” he said.

“Joseph plays every day for at least a couple of hours. He is definitely blessed as a musician and trombone player… he loves playing the trombone,” he added.

Getting into Stanford University where the competition is tough when it comes to getting a slot did not come easy for Joseph. However, he adapted and kept moving.

“Besides filling out the common application, Stanford required an extra eight short answer and three essay questions… there was also the option to provide an arts portfolio and Joseph chose to do this since music is such a large part of his life,” Anthony said

“…Joseph decided to request a live audition and fortunately, he was chosen to have a live audition in front of the Stanford Symphony Orchestra conductor. By having a live audition, Joseph was able to connect with the conductor, discuss his musical goals, and see the music facilities at Stanford,” Anthony added.

According to his father, Joseph started playing in fourth grade, but really committed to it in sixth grade.

“Seventh grade is the first time you can apply for California All-State Honor Bands and when he made the highest All-State middle school band as a seventh grader, he was hooked and made it a goal to make the California All-State Honor Bands all six years. Joseph was one of only three musicians this year who made All-State all six years from 7th-12th grade,” he said.

Prior to playing trombone, Joseph took piano lessons for a couple of years. In 4th grade, students can choose an instrument and the trombone was just an instrument not many people played and looked fun to play. Once he started taking lessons, his private trombone teacher, MJ Wamhoff inspired him to achieve his best, according to Anthony.

The elder Diaz said Joseph’s talent as a trombone player has pushed him to reach goals that he set and more.

“There are so many opportunities and Joseph set his goal to make All-State and National Honor Bands in middle school. To be able to play with some of the honor groups, under some of the best conductors in the world, is a humbling and thrilling experience,” he said

“He’s been able to study with trombone greats like Joseph Alessi of New York Philharmonic, Tim Higgins of San Francisco Symphony, Kyle Covington of San Diego Symphony and Peter Ellefson a professor of music at Indiana University to name a few. In all, playing in all these groups allows Joseph to experience the music and play with amazing and talented young musicians,” he added

Anthony said, while growing up, his son Joseph has earned numerous first chairs in many local, regional, state, and national honor bands. First chair is a position of distinction that usually go to a highly competent player.

“He earned first chair in the highest California All-State Honor Band called Wind Symphony, his 10th and 11th grade years as first chair in the All-State Symphony and he also earned first chair in the Music For All National Honor Band in his 11th grade year. He also marched in the Music For All National Honor Band in the Tournament of Roses at the Rose Parade in January of 2017,” he said

“Finally, his junior year, Joseph won the prestigious Butler University Dean’s Full-Scholarship during a competition at the Music For All conference in Indianapolis. Even though he chose to attend Stanford, this was an award given to only one brass player at this national conference,” he added.

Aside from his music. Joseph is active at church and sports In church, a local non-denominational Christian church, he volunteers at the Sunday youth ministries, is a leader in the youth group, and has spent all four years of his high school spring breaks building houses in Mexico for those in need. He plays soccer and tennis and is currently on the Varsity Tennis team at Oak Ridge.

Even though still a teenager, Joseph’s ultimate goals are to serve and make a positive difference in the lives of others.

“Our hope, as parents, is for Joseph to continue following his path of serving others, being honest and truthful in all he does, continuing his passion for music, striving to be the best he can be, having balance, making a positive difference, and to have fun. We hope he discovers his true passion and enjoys all aspects of his college life. To be at a university like Stanford is an experience he will never forget and we hope he takes full advantage of what Stanford and the its community offers,” Anthony said.

“We are very proud of what he has accomplished and achieved be it academics, church, or music, Joseph has worked extremely hard to maintain and excel in all these areas…hopefully, he will follow a path where he makes a difference to the younger generation where ever he ends up. We are very proud to be Chamorro… very proud to represent Chamorros, Saipan, and the CNMI,” he added.

Bea Cabrera | Correspondent
Bea Cabrera, who holds a law degree, also has a bachelor's degree in mass communications. She has been exposed to multiple aspects of mass media, doing sales, marketing, copywriting, and photography.

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