Eastern Michigan University

Alejandra Escobar

Alejandra Escobar and music
professor Joel Schoenhals

Pianist and 2013 Graduate Student Music Competition winner is a natural performer

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Alejandra Escobar is this year's winner of the Graduate Student Music Competition for her piano rendition of Vallee d'Obermann by Franz Liszt.

Escobar hails from Colombia, South America, where she started playing piano at age 7. She had a series of teachers but worked mostly with Blanca Uribe, a renowned pianist who has played all over the world, working in the US for most of her career but retiring to Colombia. Escobar attended Universidad EAFIT in Medellin, the second largest city in Colombia.

Escobar came to EMU in the fall of 2011 to study with music professor Joel Schoenhals. They met at a Summer Music Festival in Chautauqua, New York, in 2003, where Escobar worked with many teachers but formed a special connection with Dr. Schoenhals.

Escobar chose her recital piece because she loved it. It's part of a set of three suites called Years of Pilgrimage, based on a novel by Goethe. She calls it "a very challenging piece, with lots of emotion; it changes from fire to angels." She acknowledges that she was especially nervous performing but was happy with her performance, although she added, "You always want better; I always think of what I should have done."

Upon being announced as the competition winner she felt relief as well as surprise and thanked Dr. Schoenhals for his support. She says that in addition to being a terrific musician and pianist, Dr. Schoenhals is extremely clear as a teacher and easy to get along with. His advice for the competition was to enjoy it and to eat a banana beforehand for energy.

Of Escobar, Dr. Schoenhals says, "She is a natural performer and has the right temperament. She is fun to work with and understands music as communication." He says he gets to help her understand music in a deeper way, but she puts her own stamp on it, adding, "That's hard to teach. She's got that."

Escobar's favorite music is from the Romantic period of the 18th-19th century, but she claims it's too difficult to pick one favorite composer. Dr. Schoenhals agrees with her that "our favorite piece is the one we're playing at the moment." Of more modern music, Escobar likes the Beatles a lot and thinks Alicia Keyes has a beautiful voice.

In addition to Dr. Schoenhals, Escobar thanked Professor Diane Winder for "helping me all the time."

Escobar will graduate next December and is unsure of her future plans. She may continue studying to earn her doctorate and would ultimately like to perform and possibly teach. - Lisa Walters