ΦKΦ Member Spotlight

Marla Elsea
Dec 29, 2021

Khadija Aguinaldo is a first-generation Filipino-American who was born and raised in California. After graduating high school at Natomas Charter School in Sacramento, she studied music performance at California State University, Sacramento, where she graduated both early and cum laude as a member of Phi Kappa Phi.

Her pride in her family heritage is rooted in her parents' teachings. Not only did they raise her to speak both English and Tagalog, but they worked as advocates for Asian American rights and built a network of long-lasting friendships within the community that provide a strong support system. " Everything they have instilled in me has shown me the value of having pride and embracing our culture," she shared.

Khadija discovered her love of music in elementary school when she began to learn the piccolo and flute. She was encouraged to audition for the Sacramento Youth Symphony where she further developed her abilities. Over the years, she learned to balance the additional responsibilities of rehearsals and performances with schooling. " It was a formative experience in my life that taught me discipline, responsibility, professionalism, dedication, and artistry," Khadija said. That practice and discipline led to multiple honors and scholarships including being the youngest to win the Festival of New American Music Solo Performance Competition twice.

Early in the pandemic, she began working as a distance learning facilitator with Natomas Charter School to support the elementary student population as they attended classes online. She now works at Charter as an inclusive education paraprofessional helping teachers support students with learning disabilities. She continues to nurture her love of music by giving private music lessons, performing with local orchestras and ensembles and volunteering at senior facilities to provide music therapy to residents with Alzheimer's and dementia. "They begin to sing, hum, laugh, smile and even dance along to the music and I leave knowing I helped bring some light to their day," she said.

Let's get to know Khadija!

Why did you accept the invitation to join Phi Kappa Phi?
I accepted the invitation to join because it is a privilege to be inducted into such a highly esteemed academic honor society that embraces and recognizes professionalism, excellence, dedication and the value of enriching the passion of learning in our community. There is a misconception that studying and playing music as a college major is an easy out and an inconsequential path to pursue. However, imagine a world without music and the arts, and how gray our day to day would be without these beautiful, instinctually human forms of expression. Every piece of media we consume has ties to the qualities Phi Kappa Phi represents, and becoming a member affirms that every field of study, both academic and artistic, are equally important and interwoven.

What is your favorite holiday and why?
My absolute favorite holiday is Christmas. There is a certain energy of merriment in the air during the Christmas season. I love when my family and loved ones gather to cook and prepare special foods to enjoy and share. It also gives my family and I even more appreciation and gratitude for all our blessings for the year.

Where do you most want to travel, but have never been?
Traveling to new and familiar places, both near and far, is one of my favorite activities. One of the places on my travel list is Europe, particularly the United Kingdom. I would love to bask in the beautiful natural sceneries, enjoy teas and foods, and revel in music performances of amazing orchestras that have recorded scores and soundtracks of some of my favorite movies and TV shows, including Harry Potter, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and Doctor Who.

What do you know about your family’s origins?
My family comes from the Luzon Island in the Philippines with some roots in Spain and China. My mother’s side of the family is from Manila and Pampanga while my father’s side is from Ilocos Norte.

What is the greatest movie of all time?
In my humble opinion, the original Star Wars trilogy is the greatest movie series of all time. From the rich worlds created, engaging storyline, innovations in special effects and widely recognizable music score to the relevant social commentary, it is an amazing legacy of movie-making whose influence can still be felt.

What has been your biggest success in life?
Music performance has provided me with opportunities to travel, and one of the biggest successes in my life is performing at the world-renowned Walt Disney Concert Hall, in Los Angeles, California, home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Do you have any pets?
I have a dog – a Maltese Pomeranian with cute deep brown eyes that convey so much personality and character, and a black fluffy, curly coat that has spots of white here and there but especially around her snout that looks like a goatee! One of her favorite activities is singing along with me as I practice flute.

What is special about the place you grew up?
Growing up in a foodie family, one of the special things we enjoy about Sacramento are the great small, local places to eat at. Sacramento is known as a farm-to-fork region as we are surrounded by many farms. Restaurants take advantage of the local, fresh ingredients and shape them into delicious dishes, and also embrace the melting pot of cultures and different cuisines representative of our area.

What motivates you to work hard?
My family, being Filipino immigrants, inspire and motivate me to work hard to build upon their values and legacy, as they have provided me with an amazing start to life.

What is something that makes you feel like a kid again?
Something that makes me feel like a kid again is discovering new places, foods and experiences whenever I travel. That excitement, wonder and awe at learning about something new is an exhilarating feeling and one of my favorite things about adventuring. In addition to this, opening and building a new Lego set for the collection is always an awesome and relaxing experience that fills me with childlike giddiness as the pieces fit together.

To learn more about Khadija and connect, visit her profile within our online member community, here.

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