Personal Legend Project: Sareh Azizi


Sareh Azizi, 15, Violinist & Student

Sareh lived her first 13 years in Iran.  She began to play violin at age 10, but her family had to keep it a secret, as “western” music is strongly discouraged.  Later that year, she and her sister were attacked by police when they saw her carrying her violin, which left Sareh with a permanent injury to her leg.  When confronting the police for attacking his daughters, her father was arrested and jailed for a month. From then on the family was harassed by the police on a regular basis, so they left their town to seek a safer place to live.

A neighbor in their new town had a son who teaches at Indiana University.  Through him, a video of Sareh playing violin was shown to a professor of music.  Sareh was then invited to participate in the IU Summer String Academy in 2014.  She received a visa to travel here as a student, and was accompanied by her father.  Her mother and sister are currently in Turkey as they await word on whether they will receive asylum in the United States.

Sareh’s story of bravery and perseverance is a great reminder of how lucky I am to live in a society where I can follow my path without fear of persecution.  Sareh overcoming such adversity proves to me that nothing can keep me from my Personal Legend if I am persistent and stay on course.


The following set of six questions will be answered by each of the subjects.

1)  Some people call it a “true calling” or their “life’s work.”  In the book The Alchemist, author Paulo Coelho calls it your Personal Legend. What do you consider to be your true calling, or Personal Legend?

I believe my calling is to be a violinist. I see myself on a stage, playing for people’s enjoyment. I also picture myself writing music and conducting an orchestra.

2)  When did you first realize that this was your calling?

I was 10 years old when I first heard violin music on a TV, through a satellite dish. I wanted to learn to play the violin! My dad got me a small violin, and I started playing the violin and had a few lessons, but then the police in Iran smashed my violin and badly injured my leg. For two years, I was unable to play. Then my dad purchased another violin and I started again. Two years ago, I was invited to participate in the IU Summer String Academy in Bloomington, Indiana. Coming to the US was a wonderful chance for me to pursue my calling in a way I could not have done in Iran! I am grateful to God and to the people I have met in Bloomington for giving me this opportunity.

3)  People often become completely engrossed, losing track of time or outside concerns while performing tasks related to their calling.  This might be referred to as being “in the zone” or “flow.”  When do you experience this most often?

I don’t think that I am often “in the zone,” but I enjoy mastering and memorizing pieces of violin music. I like to interpret the composition so that it conveys what I am feeling when I play it. When I am performing, I thoroughly enjoy the interaction as I share my understanding of the musical piece with those who are listening. I love to play and share music with others.

4)  What is the greatest challenge or obstacle you’ve faced in pursuit of your life’s work?

Growing up in Iran made it almost impossible to pursue my dream of being a musician. In Iran people, particularly girls, are not allowed to play “western music.” A policeman shouted at me that I should be studying the Koran, not playing a violin, before smashing my violin! I learned to play the violin secretly, by listening to violin music that I heard in our home via a satellite dish that was hidden from the police when not in use.

5)  What has pursuing your Personal Legend taught you?

I have learned the joy of playing the violin and giving people enjoyment. Music is as important to me as breathing! It is not just a hobby.

6)  What piece of advice can you offer to others seeking their true calling?

When you have an opportunity that “knocks on your door,” make sure you take advantage of it, and go with it to the best of your ability. Follow your calling, whatever it is!


Are you following your Personal Legend?  Tell us about it in the comments below.

Subscribe to the blog, or add us to your RSS feed to follow along as we post a new set of images each day for the next 30 days.   For background on this project, check out our first post in the series.


Personal Legend Project: Tommy Baldwin


Tommy Baldwin, Musician

I met Tommy in a very serendipitous manner.  I stopped by my office on Saturday after another shoot and noticed my office neighbors, Kingston’s Music Showcase, were in.  For me, music is as big of a passion as photography, and I hadn’t yet found a musician to participate in the project.  I thought I’d ask the owner, Rick Kingston, if he could recommend someone.  Without hesitation he said that Tommy Baldwin was the most passionate musician he knew, and he would be coming by in about 15 minutes.  Tommy is a 20-year-old phenom who splits his time between his hometown of Indy and LA, gigging with big names in the blues & rock scene.

When Tommy came in, he was immediately on board with the project.  I shot a few images during rehearsal, then met up later in the evening for his gig at Vireli’s.  If you’re in the Indy area, mark July 3rd on the calendar and come see Tommy’s inspired playing at Guitar-mel Fest, a concert at CarmelFest, which I’ll be sponsoring/shooting again this year.


Here’s where we typically have our six questions, but today we’re presenting Tommy’s info in more of a story format.

I believe my true calling is to write and play music. I love the arts in its entirety. Drawings, Paintings, Pottery, Glass, Acting, Music, Film, etc, but music is my favorite of them all. It’s my favorite because you can still feel it when you close your eyes. It’s the melody you think of walking down the street or hanging out with friends. It’s all around you, all the time. You just have to listen, and create what you hear and make it your own.


I started playing guitar when I was 8 years old. I went to my friend’s house who had a broken guitar with 3 strings on it and barely worked. I remember when I first picked it up and played it on my lap like a lap steel guitar, but I used my thumb. He saw I was really interested in it so he let me have it and take it home.  When I took it home I had no idea how to play it, but I loved it.  I remember waking up the next day to find out my dad had tuned it and I was so mad because I liked how it sounded before…. Haha.  

A year later Santa brought me my first Squire Stratocaster.  So I learned how to properly play it, learning chords and songs.  I loved that damn thing, then, a year later my dad and mom surprised me with a Red Epiphone SG.  I got that guitar as an early Christmas present, I was so excited. A month later on December 19th, 2006 my dad died of a heart attack. My life completely changed. That event morphed me into who I am as a person today; how passionate I am about music, and how I love my friends and family.

My mom and I moved in February of 2007 into a little condo and had to get rid of a lot of our stuff from the old house.  We were extremely sad, but we made it through.  At the time I loved to play Metallica and Linkin Park. But, when I heard Stevie Ray Vaughan’s version of Voodoo Child by Jimi Hendrix, I watched in awe and said, “Now that’s how I wanna play guitar!”  I could feel the blues; the notes that he felt and sang with his guitar and vocals.  Then I heard Hendrix, Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Peter Frampton, and I was SO in love with the blues…. And I still am! That’s what I still play.


Fast forward to now… Last year I met Dug Pinnick from King’s X at the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) show. I was there to see one of my favorite guitar players, Eric Gales. After his show, he went off to the side and signed CD’s.  Eric did a project with Dug called PGP with a drummer named Thomas Pridgen, who my drummer Elijah Polard loves. He showed me the group.

So I saw Dug and said well screw this line, I’m gonna go say hi to him, because he’s a badass bass player. So I walked up to him and introduced myself and said how much I loved his tone and style of playing. He asked me why I was here and said I love Eric Gales and would love to meet him and buy a CD. So he grabbed my hand and said, “Well screw this line he’s my friend!” and walked me through the line and introduced me as Tommy Baldwin, his blues guitar player friend, when we had just met. Eric gave me a hug and said “Hey man, nice to meet you!” and signed CDs for us.

Then Dug offered to take us to dinner!  So we went and ate in the restaurant of the Hilton and sat and laughed and conversed for about 2 hours.  Then Dug said come up to the room and hang with us if you’d like.  So we went and hung for about an hour or so and called it a night, but as we were leaving Dug says, “I’ll see you tomorrow, buddy!”

That was the first day and night I met my best friend in the whole world, Dug Pinnick.  Now, a little over a year later, I live with Dug in North Hollywood California (Encino/Reseda area).  He’s taken me on tour with him twice, in which he got me up to play the encore song every night on for a month, which was Voodoo Child by Jimi Hendrix.  I’ve also now played with and met so many famous musicians who I now can call my friends and work with as well.  Now Dug is playing bass and producing my upcoming record “Moving Towards The West Coast Sun”, and we are due to release it with Rat Pak records in the summer time.

I’ve worked very hard this past year writing and recording music with Dug and can’t wait to get back out to Los Angeles to finish up the record and see what the rest of 2016 brings. I thank God for all of this happening. God works in very strange ways, and I am so thankful for everything going on right now and all of the people that are helping it happen. It is a blessing to meet and befriend people on this path to hopefully achieve my true calling.


Are you following your Personal Legend?  Tell us about it in the comments below.

Subscribe to the blog, or add us to your RSS feed to follow along as we post a new set of images each day for the next 30 days.   For background on this project, check out our first post in the series.