Here's my essay for the Common app:
It was a few days before Christmas, and I was driving to Graceworks, a psychiatric home. Once there, I would be performing keyboard music for the hospital's annual Christmas party. As our minivan drove down the slushy road, I thought about the patients I would be playing for, whom I'd met a few days ago. All of the patients had some type of disability; some had multiple. One of the most interesting people I met was an elderly lady who refused to go anywhere without her baby doll. Even stranger than this, she had an extremely hoarse voice that resembled a man's. One of the workers told me that her voice often scared people; whenever she went out and tried to start a conversation with somebody, they wold often get frightened and distance themselves. I only had time to meet a few more patients, but by the time I left, I felt thoroughly depressed. Most of the people I'd met were in wheelchairs, and only two of them could talk normally. Their entire lives seemed to be limited by things they had no control over, and they seemed extremely isolated, both psychologically and physically. Their lives were so drastically different than mine that I had no idea how to communicate with them. I wanted to connect with them somehow, but I felt as though we lived in different worlds. I hoped that a little piano music could brighten their day, but I was unsure. After I'd arrived at Graceworks and set up my keyboard, I placed my fingers on the keys and started playing 'The Christmas Song'. Initially, many of the patients didn't seem to notice. They were all sitting around the room, eating dinner. But as I continued to play, a few patients moved themselves in their wheelchairs to where I was playing. They were quiet at first, simply watching and listening. But then they started to make strange noises. The lady with the deep voice started grumbling something that sounded like, "Mmmm, Mmm". Another person started grunting. I didn't know what it meant, but I kept playing. After I'd finished a jazzy version of 'Feliz Navidad' the lady with the deep voice cleared her throat and said, "I liked that one." When I heard those words I felt encouraged because I realized I was beginning to truly connect with the patients. They were listening to the music, and they enjoyed it! Originally I hadn't understood why some of the people were making odd noises, but now I realized that it was their expression of joy. Thirty minutes later, I had finished playing all my songs and it was time for me to go home. The people who had come up close to watch wheeled themselves back to the dining room and started making cookies. The people who had been eating dinner before slowly finished up. Nothing really had changed. But inside me, I felt uplifted. Seeing the people respond to the music made me realize that I could make a difference, even if it was through something as simple as playing Christmas songs. My piano skills weren't the best, but they adh allowed me to connect with the patients in a way deeper than I had thought possible. Through music, the boundaries between us were broken.
-This is my first draft, please criticize and give suggestions!