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Zavia plays a lively tune for dental school

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Zavia Doyling playing on Reid Street in Hamilton to raise money for university (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

A Bermudian teenager has found a novel way to raise money for dental school: busking.

Three times a week, 18-year-old Zavia Doyling takes to the streets of Hamilton to play her violin. People who enjoy her music throw a few pennies or bills into her violin case.

“People have been very generous,” she said. “Some people have donated five cents and others $20. Everything helps.”

Her dream is to start her own dental practice, and in her spare time run a charity to fix the dental problems of poor people in Ecuador.

She first went to the South American country on a mission trip with the Bermuda High School when she was 12. Ms Doyling was shocked when they visited an impoverished village.

“The locals were just struggling,” she said. “It was heartbreaking. They had different skin diseases and cavities. I wondered what I could do to help.”

Her group was already building a school for this community, but she wanted to do more.

“I thought about becoming a general practitioner, but that sounded too bland for me,” she said. “Dentistry can be much broader. Everyone has a different issue. That is the exciting nature of things. You can also travel with dentistry, which is amazing.”

She has applied to the Universidad Católica de Murcia in Murcia, Spain, which will help her learn Spanish, Ecuador’s official language.

“I will find out in two weeks if I have been accepted,” she said. “The first two years of the course I am looking at are in English, and then the last three years are in Spanish. That is definitely a big motivation for me to get the language down.”

If she does not get in, that is fine.

“I am also applying to many schools in the United States and the United Kingdom,” she said.

At the moment, Ms Doyling is taking a gap year between high school and university. Three times a week she works for Avant Dental on Bermudiana Road in Hamilton.

She felt a rush of excitement the first time she was allowed to look into someone’s mouth.

“I am definitely on the right track,” she said. “I love it.”

In her spare time she plays her violin in Hamilton. She did some busking in the summer and has continued this winter. In the cooler months she has found that people have more time to stand around and listen, or read the sign in her violin case explaining why she is playing.

“There is one older man who brings me water,” she said. “Everyone has been very supportive.”

She has only been doing this for a few months, but is already closer to her goal, particularly since she now has a corporate sponsor, tech firm Fort Knox.

“On Fridays, I play in front of Fort Knox,” she said. “I have a partnership with them.”

When people buy a package from the firm, she gets a portion of the profits.

“That is amazing,” she said.

When she first received permission from the Corporation of Hamilton to busk, she was focused on raising money. Her mission has grown to include improving the ambience of the city, and making people smile.

She started playing the violin at the age of 4.

“We were walking down Reid Street past the Music Box,” she said. “I looked in the window and saw all these instruments. I saw a violin, pointed to it and said, ‘That one’! The violin has been my instrument ever since.”

She took lessons with the Bermuda School Music, then continued playing in boarding school in England.

At one point, however, she wanted to stop, but her parents, Betty and Steven Doyling, made her keep going. She is glad they stuck to their guns.

“For the last five years, I have really loved it,” Ms Doyling said.

She encourages other parents to push their children when it comes to music, dance or some other art form.

“So many of my friends don’t even play any more,” she said. “I could probably count on one hand how many of us still play.”

Ms Doyling said the community wants to help young people with aspirations.

“It is a real benefit if you can find a hobby that you really like doing,” she said.

Classical music is her favourite music to play, because it is challenging.

“I really like pieces that are hard and sound impressive,” she said. “But then again I also like playing more secular music and pop songs by artists like Adele.”

In quartets, she loves playing Spanish tangos.

Playing in Hamilton has been a nice way to practise her music.

“It is very chill and no one is taking it really seriously,” she said.

While playing she has a card on display with a quick response code that people can scan with their phones. Through this she has picked up several gigs.

“I played at two events last week including the Christmas tree lighting at City Hall and the Christmas tree lighting at the airport. I will also be playing in a wedding. That will be my second.”

As much as she loves the violin, she does not want to become a professional musician.

“Right now I am loving it,” she said. “I get to choose when I play and where I play. If I was a professional, the pressure would start to build. Music is a release for me. I would not want to lose that.”

• Zavia Doyling plays on Reid Street in Hamilton outside the Washington Mall on Mondays and Wednesdays from noon to 2pm, and on Fridays outside Fort Knox on the corner of Church Street and Burnaby Street, again from noon to 2pm.

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Published November 28, 2023 at 8:00 am (Updated November 29, 2023 at 8:06 am)

Zavia plays a lively tune for dental school

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