Hi Yamila, welcome to Opus 1! You’re a new member of our faculty and we’re excited to have you joining us. Can you share a little bit about what brought you to Opus 1?
I joined because of Opus 1’s standard of excellence. I’ve long known about Opus 1 and admired everything about how they operate, which is why I’m proud to be a new member of the faculty here!
You graduated from the Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music, co-founded by Pablo Casals - one of the most influential cellists of the 20th century, whom you worked with while a student; and also earned your Master’s degree from Peabody Conservatory, known for its many Grammy Award winners, the Peabody Award, and several notable faculty. Can you share what your experience was like studying at these prestigious music schools?
I was very fortunate to be able to work with big figures at both institutions. In Puerto Rico I worked with Jesus Maria Sanroma and Luz Hutchinson in the piano department and I benefited from other big music figures such as the Figueroa family in chamber music and the opera department. Their legacy left in me an everlasting deep inspirational love and devotion for music and music education. Don Pablo Casals directed the choir of the Conservatory himself when we performed his beautiful master work “El Pesebre” in The Casals festival. This was his last performance of his beautiful choral piece written in his native Spanish language “Catalan”, for soprano, choir and orchestra. The Casals festival would bring the highest world-wide recognized music figures from all over the world every year, and students had the fortune of this inspirational educational experience.
I worked at Peabody with Ellen Senofsky as my piano teacher, a graduate from UC Berkley and Fulbright Scholar in Europe where she was the accompanist for the great violinist Zasha Heifets. I worked for years with Mrs. Senofsky in chamber music and accompanying classes as well. Accompanying class was of the most valuable classes I had at Peabody as a career pianist today. I benefit from other great music figures such as Leon Fleisher’s weekly piano master classes, Berl Senosky’s chamber music and others.
In addition to your time teaching private lessons, you’re also Music Director for the San Carlos Children’s Theater, where you teach musical theater and accompany. As a classically trained concert pianist, can you share similarities and differences between classical and musicals and what draws you to this side of the arts?
Musical Theater is where several art segments intersect: acting, music, dancing, and visual arts, which come together on stage at once while also using technology. Musical theater is fascinating! Musical theater took a more serious route in music with composers such as Leonard Bernstein in his “West Side Story.” Some musical theater scores are as difficult or even more than classical works. I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish my career in music theater without my training as a concert pianist.
Sometimes our students forget that their teacher was once a student also with the same expectations, pressures, and challenges that they have now. Can you share a skill that you learned as a student that was challenging and advice for our Opus 1 students on how to overcome their own challenges?
Practice ~ Practice ~ Practice!!! Everything in life is work, practicing has to come from within and practicing will develop your love and devotion for music as well as your ability.
Can you share your most memorable performance and what about that performance made it so memorable?
It is hard to recall my most memorable performance. Many different performances come to my mind since my youth until my most recent performance, which was met with nice newspapers review. During my last years in Sonoma County I was performing constantly as a pianist and accompanist, I had the opportunity of playing chamber music with principals players from the symphony as well as with principal string players from different symphonies in the Bay Area.
As a pianist, I performed in a piano duo team as well as with orchestra. I was part of the Sebastopol Center For The Arts Music Committee and we produced and performed different productions every year including the “Messiah Sing Along” with the community which I was the pianist for. Music Theater was the highlight in my career these days.