FLUSHING, N.Y., December 12, 2008—Opera tenor Placido Domingo, cellist Pablo Casals and classical composer and virtuoso pianist Joaquin Rodrigo are three of the musical legends that Spain has given the world in just the last century. And if Lluis Capdevila, a Fulbright music scholar from Catalonia, Spain, has his way, one day he may be counted among them.
When the Fulbright Commission in Madrid awarded Capdevila a scholarship to pursue his music studies last year, he chose Queens College because “of the worldwide reputation of its Aaron Copland School of Music jazz program, and the high quality, affordable education it offers,” he says. Capdevila, 27, who is now pursuing his Master of Arts degree in jazz performance, says that his goal is to become a professional composer and musician.
“The campus is relaxed and comfortable, which is ideal for focusing and creating music,” Capdevila continues. “It is also close to Manhattan, which is probably the best place in the world for jazz music.”
At the age of six and without any formal piano training, Capdevila started creating his own melodies as well as playing from memory pop standards like the Beatles’ “Yesterday.” “It was fun and effortless,” he recalls. “I always knew that music would be my life.” His talent and goal aren’t surprising; Capdevila’s grandmother was a professional pianist and conservatory teacher and his mother a guitarist.
What is surprising is that this young musician received his undergraduate degree in law. “I was convinced that it would help me better understand our society and develop certain skills that would be valuable in the arts field,” he explains. In the end, though, he felt that music ultimately provided the best instrument to be “creative and communicate.”
“My biggest inspiration has been nature,” says Capdevila. “While growing up in Falset, a small village in the Catalan countryside, and spending summer vacations in Tarragona near the Mediterranean Sea, I was able to observe and listen to nature’s sounds.”
A full-time student who now lives in Flushing, Capdevila enjoys going to live concerts every week in Manhattan and listening to all types of music, including jazz, classical and opera – “anything that is innovative and emotional,” which he says has improved his musicianship. He is influenced by musicians such as award-winning jazz vocalist Sheila Jordan, whose music he describes as “pure and honest.”
The Aaron Copland School of Music (ACSM) at Queens College, founded in 1937, has maintained a strong reputation for musical excellence. The school offers undergraduate and graduate programs in music performance, composition, musicology, music theory, orchestral conducting, and music education, as well as an elite graduate jazz studies program in performance and composition. The jazz studies program, begun and directed by the legendary jazz saxophonist and composer Jimmy Heath, is now directed by Michael Phillip Mossman. A master trumpeter, trombonist and composer, Mossman has been active on the international scene since the age of 17, performing and recording with his own groups and with bands led by a virtual Who’s Who of the music industry.
ACSM’s jazz studies program also boasts a distinguished roster of graduates. They include Antonio Hart, an associate professor at Queens College who has received the college’s Louis Armstrong Innovative Artist Award, a Grammy Award nomination, and performed on three Grammy-award-winning CDs. Other well-known graduates include Darren Barrett, Miles Griffith, Jeb Patton and Diego Urcola.
A mainstay of America’s public-diplomacy efforts, the Fulbright Scholarship Program brings citizens of other countries to the United States for Master’s degree or Ph.D. study at universities or other appropriate institutions. The program has brought some of the world’s finest scholars to American campuses and offers program participants insight into U.S. society and values. Thirty-nine Fulbright fellows have gone on to receive Nobel prizes. Capdevila’s college tuition and living expenses from 2007-2009 are covered by his Fulbright Scholarship.