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  • Pittsburg State's Alheli Aranda is off to a premier piano institute

  • If Alheli Aranda’s mother hadn’t prohibited her from playing soccer when she was a child she probably wouldn’t be attending one of the nation’s premier piano institutes this month.

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  • If Alheli Aranda’s mother hadn’t prohibited her from playing soccer when she was a child she probably wouldn’t be attending one of the nation’s premier piano institutes this month.
    The 18-year-old Pittsburg State University sophomore from Asuncion, Paraguay, said she was constantly playing soccer with the boys in her neighborhood. But that didn’t fly with mom.
    “She didn’t want me to play soccer anymore, so she locked me in the living room,” Aranda said, laughing as she recalled the memory. “There was a piano in there. I hated it at first, but I started to play it and I liked it.”
    Today, Aranda, a music major at Pitt State, will fly to New York to participate in PianoSummer at New Paltz, an international summer institute and festival dedicated solely to piano music. There, she will be one of 35 students selected to spend three weeks studying with Vladimir Feltsman, a world-renowned pianist who regularly performs with groups such as the New York Philharmonic and London Symphony Orchestra.
    “She’s a very talented person, there’s no doubt about that,” said professor Russell L. Jones, interim chair of the department of music. “It’s quite an honor to get accepted for that. The first time I heard her play I said, ‘If she plays like that all the time, she’s got a real career ahead of her.’”
    Aranda said an instructor encouraged her to apply for institute, and that she mailed the recordings she made thinking that would be the end of it. She didn’t bother to tell her parents. Then, just weeks before the cut-off date, she learned she had been selected. But officials had not awarded her financial aid.
    “So I thought, ‘OK, that was nice anyway,’” Aranda said in-between practice sessions Thursday morning.
    But department faculty heard about her predicament, and, understanding the gravitas the summer program bears, they came up with a way to raise the $2,500 tuition she needed. Aranda said they gave her valuable contacts in the community and helped get her story out.
    “I had 14 meetings in four days on Skype, the phone and in-person both here and in Paraguay,” Aranda said. “I missed three days of class, but the professors were encouraging. Then I waited for five, just praying, praying, praying for a miracle.”
    Her efforts paid off. Within six days she had raised $1,500. On the final day, Jones found a total of $3,200 when he checked the account.
    “After that I called my mom and told her, and she was like, ‘What?! You didn’t tell me?!’” said Aranda, who also plays guitar and viola.
    Now Aranda is off to New York for three weeks, where she will receive private lessons, study in master classes, play in recitals and attend festival concerts.
    Page 2 of 2 - “Being around other top-level players is always good, and it gives you an idea of what some of the other people who are very talented can do,” Jones said. “I’ve been to some summer camps and left shaking my head in admiration. Most high-level players have had the chance to study under several different teachers, and there will be some outstanding teachers there that she’ll get to work with. She can benefit from that in a lot of ways.”
    Aranda also will participate in the Jacob Flier Piano Competition, which was established to honor the long-time Moscow (Russia) Conservatory pianist and mentor. If she wins, she will earn the chance to perform with the Hudson Valley Philharmonic orchestra.
    “If I win it’s going to take a lot of work,” Aranda said. “But I think I can do it.”
    Jones said he has no doubt Aranda will do well in New York.
    “There isn’t any doubt that people who achieve at high levels, there is a commitment involved, and she seems to be willing to put in those hours,” Jones said.
    Aranda will be required to play:
    First Round
    • One prelude and fugue from Bach’s “The Well Tempered Clavier,” and a major piece of the contestant’s choice (may not be by the same composer as the concerto chosen).
    Final Round
    • Any concerto by Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Schumann, Liszt, Chopin, Grieg or Barber; or one of the following: Mendelssohn G minor; Saint-Saens No. 2; Franck Symphonic Variations; Tchaikovsky No. 1; Rachmaninoff Nos. 1 or 2, or Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini; Prokofiev Nos. 1 or 3; MacDowell No. 2; Gershwin Concerto or Rhapsody in Blue; Shostakovich Nos. 1 or 2.

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