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Yaron migrates from Israel, adjusts to life in America

While spending some time in Westfield San Francisco Centre, a group of Feather staffers were assigned to initiate conversations with various people in the mall and interview them, April 25.

Upon walking past a teeth whitening booth, seniors Maddie Yee and Meredith Monke engaged in a conversation with 37-year-old SpaWhite Smile salesman Yaron Benyamini.

Migration to US

Though born in Israel, Benyamini migrated to the United States with his family when he was five years and later on made his way through New Jersey and Chicago, before eventually settling in San Francisco about five years ago.

“I was born in Israel and I lived there until I was five years old,” Benyamini said. “Then when I was five I moved to New Jersey and when I was six, I moved to Chicago where I lived for the rest of my childhood. I moved back to Israel for a few years when I was 22, did the army there and then came back to Chicago and moved to San Francisco when I was 32 to work here.”

After forming a connection to SpaWhite Smile company through his relative, Benyamini moved from his former home in Chicago and began working in the Westfield San Francisco Centre as a sales representative.

“I sell teeth whitening treatments in the mall in San Francisco,” Benyamini said. “My cousin used to work for the company that I work for so he got me in touch with the owners. They flew me out here and that’s how I started my job here.”

Having lived in San Francisco for almost five years now, Benyamini finds enjoyment in the city sights and the opportunity to meet a mixture of people who travel from all around the world to San Francisco.

“San Francisco is a beautiful, beautiful city,” Benyamini said. “Just getting out and seeing the city or getting out and driving around the area here is amazing. You get to meet people from all over the world; it’s very diverse and very cosmopolitan-ish [sic]. In this mall in particular, because it’s right in downtown, you get to meet people from all over the world.”

Assimilating to American culture

Despite only knowing how to speak Hebrew when he moved to the US, Benyamini says that due to him being so young when his family moved, he was able to learn the English language rather quickly.

“I was fortunately young enough when my family came over to the United States that I picked up English pretty easily,” Benyamini said. “I don’t even really remember the process of learning English; it kind of just happened.”

Along with having an advantage of learning English at a young age, Benyamini was able to attend a Jewish day school in New Jersey during his first grade school year. Within the classes, he was able to study both in Hebrew and English.

“I think during my first year in school in first grade in New Jersey, I didn’t speak any English,” Benyamini said. “But the school that my parents put me in was a Jewish day school, so half of the classes were in Hebrew and half of the classes were in English.”

In addition to his elementary education at a bilingual school, Benyamini’s father also provided him with a language tool, allowing him to practice his English through repetitive speaking and spelling.

“My dad got me that little thing called Speak and Spell,” Benyamini said. “It was a Texas Instruments toy, so it would give me words to say in English and I would say it or spell it. That’s kind of how I learned more English.”

During fourth grade, Benyamini attended a public school and was home schooled in fifth grade. Throughout his sixth grade year, he attended school for music classes, which later led into one of his hobbies: music. He also took night classes, where he learned to play the saxophone, clarinet and flute.

Developing a passion for music, education

Benyamini attended four different colleges in the Chicago area where he majored in music: Roosevelt University, University of Illinois Chicago, North Central College and College of DuPage. Though he focused much of his time on music during college, Benyamini no longer has as much free time to play. However, he still makes the effort to play when he can.

“I don’t perform as much as I would like to right now because I’m working full time but I took a year off a couple of years ago and lived in San Diego to play down there,” Benyamini said. “When I’m in Chicago I play and sometimes I play here in San Francisco.”

Benyamini enjoys music because of the connections with others and social experience that it brings. The overall experience of improvising and creating new pieces also engages Benyamini.

“Music is a great way, in my opinion, to express things that you can’t necessary express in words,” Benyamini said. “It’s a great way to connect with people as a social experience. It can be a lot of fun to play with other people, especially when you’re on the same page. I also like improvising too as a musician as part of jazz music. The experience of creating something in real time can be a very powerful and moving experience.”

Benyamini first became interested in music because of his stepfather’s interest in music. With his stepfather’s guidance and encouragement, Benyamini quickly learned how to read music scores.

“My stepfather, even before I played any musical instruments, really loved both rock and roll and classical music,” Benyamini said. “We actually used to listen to symphonies when I was in second or third grade and he would get the scores. He would show me the scores as the music was playing and say, ‘Hey look, this is what they’re playing.’ When I got my first instrument, a clarinet, I immediately picked up the score for Tchaikovsky’s symphony, which has an opening clarinet part. I figured out how to play it as soon as I took my clarinet out of the box.”

Through his life experiences, Benyamini has discovered that focusing on one hobby, talent or skill proves to be more effective than becoming mediocre at many skills.

“One thing I would really recommend would be try to figure out one thing, I wouldn’t even say two, that you really like the best and stick to it,” Benyamini said. “This is one of the hardest things to do in life and it’s what people told me when I was little but I didn’t really listen because I thought I could do everything. Focus exclusively on that thing and get as good as you can at that thing. Our economy is very specialized today and being sort of a Jack-of-all-trades doesn’t really get you a whole lot. If you’re master of one, that really makes a huge difference.”

When Benyamini was in the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra in high school, he played clarinet at the same level as the kid who sat next to him and sometimes advanced to further stages in music contests than his friend. After high school Benyamini continued on to play jazz music, teach, be a band director, play in rock bands and travel, while his friend focused solely on classical clarinet.

“Focusing on clarinet was one of the options I was considering at the time,” Benyamini said. “I had a scholarship to go to Nepal University in Chicago to study clarinet and to go to Manhattan School of Music to study clarinet with the principal clarinet out of the Metropolitan Opera at the time, who my teacher in Chicago said was one of the best people in the world to study from. But I didn’t go; I wanted to stay in Chicago. The scholarship wasn’t big enough and I thought I could save my parents some money by staying in Chicago. To make a long story short, my stand partner’s name is Anthony McGill. He is now the principal clarinet at the Metropolitan Opera in New York and played for President Obama’s inaguration with Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman.”

Benyamini believes this story illustrates how focusing on one skill is more effective than spreading out one’s time over many different hobbies. He thinks deciding to pursue one thing ultimately leads to success in life.

“So that’s what happens when you focus on something and then go all out,” Benyamini said. “You can go really far. If you kind of spread yourself on a lot of different things then it’s really easy to get pretty good at everything you do, but you don’t really get to be master. So that’s one thing I would recommend as far as path for life: decide what you want, go for it and go all the way.

For more features, read the April 24 article, Spanish classes tour Univision, cook cultural dishes.

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