by Linda Hass, Published January 08, 2014
Off stage, Alejandra Escobar is calm and reserved, but when the Eastern Michigan University graduate student performs behind the piano, she displays the kind of passion and intensity that not only won the 2013 Graduate Student Music Competition, it earned her a spot on the EMU delegation to Wuhan University, China.
“Visiting China was one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had,” says Escobar, a student in Eastern’s music performance program. The 29-year-old was among a delegation that attended the 10-year anniversary of Wuhan University, China, last October. The delegation was led by Joel Schoenhals, professor of piano.
“Experiencing Chinese culture enriched me as a person and musician. I’ve learned that music can be a means of cross-cultural understanding,” says Escobar, adding that the visit also showcases the kind of unique experiences that EMU--and the music program—can provide students. Eastern and Wuhan University have been developing dual-degree programs since 2011.
Escobar, who is on track to graduate with a master’s degree in piano performance this April, said winning the 2013 Graduate Student Music Competition was another highlight of her Eastern experience. “When they announced I won, I sat in my chair in shock before it finally sank in. I was overjoyed,” says Escobar, an international student from Colombia, South America who began playing piano at age 7.
For the music competition, she performed Vallee d’Oberrmann by Franz List. Her fiery passion effectively captured the emotion of the challenging piece, which ranges in theme from life and love to death. “Alejandra naturally connects deeply to the spirit of the music,” says Schoenhals. “She has a true performer’s temperament, and her performances are engaging and compelling. She is a joy to teach.”
Escobar exhibited that same intensity in her commitment to attend Eastern. She learned about EMU as a teenager when she attended the New York-based Chautauqua Music Festival, where Schoenhals was on the faculty at the time.
“I applied to Eastern for a bachelor’s degree, but I could not get the scholarship I needed. I applied again for a master’s degree. I must have checked my emails every 2 hours. When I found out I was accepted, I began shouting and jumping up and down. It was a dream come true,” says Escobar, who came to EMU in the fall of 2011.
“I have learned so much from Eastern’s music program in such a short time. My experiences have not only improved my performance abilities, they have broadened my cultural horizons and provided me with a network of connections to help prepare me for the future goals,” she says. Escobar plans to pursue a doctorate in piano performance and possibly teach, she adds.
Eastern’s National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) accredited programs offer undergraduate and graduate students an affordable education from highly acclaimed, award-winning faculty sharing a wealth of expertise and opportunities. The Alexander Building has two instrumental rehearsal rooms, a choral room, organ studio and a 150-seat recital hall, in addition to classrooms and teaching studios. For more information on the program, see: http://www.emich.edu/musicdance/music/.