David Weiss holding up a number for a marathon

David Weiss is Mesa College's 2024 commencement speaker

Music student named Mesa College commencement speaker

May 24, 2024 | San Diego Community College District

Many caps are flying high this season for the Class of 2024. For David Weiss, the graduation celebration means fulfilling a life-long dream of becoming a musician.

San Diego Mesa College will hold their 2024 commencement ceremony at 2 p.m. on Friday, May 24, at Merrill Douglas Stadium on campus — 1,678 students will earn degrees and certificates. David, a music studies major, who changed his career later in life will be the student speaker. 
 
Weiss, 59, worked for 35 years as a licensed financial advisor with Wedbush Securities, a leading wealth management firm. He progressed as an independent contractor with Wedbush upon graduating from San Diego State University with a bachelor’s degree in speech communication. Although a long-term rewarding career, Weiss decided it was time for a change once the firm underwent a restructure. 
 
“Being a financial advisor was no longer my identity. I needed something to do with the second half of my life that is engaging and I knew I didn’t want another office job,” said Weiss, who as far back as he can remember loved music whether it was attending a live concert or going to studio rehearsals. “The idea of wanting to learn how to play guitar came back to me.” 
 
Weiss did just that. At 55, he enrolled in beginning guitar at Mesa College in fall 2020, six months into the pandemic. The remote learning modality gave him more opportunities to grow musically than he initially imagined. Within four semesters, Weiss was learning to play the guitar, to sing, and how to read music, and he is now taking piano courses along with playing in the Mesa College Guitar Ensemble. 

“My experience has been great. The Mesa music department makes you want to keep growing. I feel fulfilled creatively and I feel really lucky to learn from such talented musicians,” Weiss shared. 
 
During his third year at Mesa College, Weiss was selected for the Preparing Accomplished Transfers to the Humanities (PATH) program. PATH guides San Diego Community College District transfer students from San Diego City, Mesa, and Miramar colleges into arts and humanities majors at UC San Diego. Students receive transfer guidance, weekly meetings with a mentor, and academic and professional development opportunities. PATH is funded by a three-year grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which benefits both UCSD Ph.D. arts and humanities students and SDCCD transfer students. 
 
Weiss said he would recommend the PATH program to any student interested in the arts. 
 
 “My mentors checked in on my studies and my future plans throughout the semester,” he said. “They didn’t have to take the time to talk to me, but they did, and they made me feel like I really matter. My professors and mentors did a good job to make every student feel respected and supported.” 
 
Following his studies at Mesa College, Weiss hopes to return to SDSU to earn a master of music. A program he was inspired to explore after watching a mesmerizing performance by Classical Pianist and Professor Lesi Mei during a Mesa College recital. From SDSU, Weiss will consider furthering his education through the UCSD doctor of musical arts program. 
 
Weiss recently shared about his academic journey and his passion for music: 
 
Q: What empowered you to make a big career change? 
A:  I enrolled in Mesa College during the pandemic after finding myself lost in some personal struggles. Both my mom and my best friend from junior high school passed unexpectedly. The company I had worked for as a financial advisor made changes that left me with a need to find a new purpose. 
 
Q: Who or what inspired your love for music? 
A: I always enjoyed music. My best friend was a musician, so we would often listen to live music and I would go to his rehearsals. I always wanted to learn to play guitar and now I have the time and the motivation to do so. 
 
Q: How has your experience been at Mesa College? 
A: The experience I've had in the music department has been more fulfilling than I could have imagined. Both the students and instructors have provided me with inspiration to learn. It's a truly amazing group of talented people. 
 
Going back to school now is so different from my experience at SDSU in the 80s. Studying communications was something I did, but it was not fun. I would skip class and to my surprise I graduated from State with a 3.1 GPA. At the time, academics didn't matter to me, I studied speech and then I went to work. I worked my way through college, but I really wasn’t interested in school. I didn’t have a positive engagement with the instructors, like I do now, who inspire me to do more. Back then no one gave me advice on pursuing something creative or to try different things to become more fulfilled in my life.   
 
Q: How has your outlook on education changed? 
A: Now, as a student at Mesa, I am really proud of my accomplishments. Within four semesters, I performed multiple duets in the guitar ensemble, took 44 units, and I never missed a class. Having a positive educational experience has brought me a new perspective and feeling of personal satisfaction. Accolades like being on the dean's list and receiving my degree are things I never thought would give me that feeling. 
 
Q: What did you enjoy about the PATH Program? 
A: Being a part of the PATH Program has also been a great experience. Dr. Ian Duckles served as my mentor and provided me with valuable guidance and counseling. We had regular meetings that gave me support to talk about my current classes and future goals. 
 
Q: What are your plans after graduation? 
A: My current education plans are to continue studying guitar and piano and improving my performance skills at Mesa and Miramar colleges. I hope to enroll at SDSU in fall 2025 and start a master’s degree program. I have looked at the doctor of musical arts at UCSD, but it is a longer commitment that I am not ready to do right now. I am still figuring it out. Learning how to play at a higher level just takes time. 
 
Additionally, if I can find a job sharing music with others, like teaching a band class, that would be gratifying. I know I could teach speech communications or education right now, but I don’t know if I would feel happy doing so. 
 
Q: How does it feel to be named the student commencement speaker for the Class of 2024? 
A: I’m really happy to share my story and to bring recognition to Mesa’s music program. It’s been really satisfying to have an educational experience that was so excellent. I hope that other people find some inspiration in that. 
 
Q: Outside of music, what other interests are you pursuing? 
A: I am also a marathon runner. I have been running since 2006; running marathons gives me a goal to train for, endorphins, and a runner’s high. In January, I ran the Carlsbad marathon and am currently preparing for the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon coming up in June. 
 
Q: What advice would you give working professionals looking to change careers? 
A: Just go for it. You have nothing to lose. I gave myself a longer time frame and set realistic expectations to learn how to play music. No matter how long it takes, don’t quit. 

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