University of Texas of the Permian Basin violin major Richard Peralta has earned a spot in the Orvieto Musica Intensive Strings Festival set for June 16 through July 8 in Orvieto, Italy.
UTPB Associate Professor of Music and Music Coordinator Dan Keast said the daily schedule involves practicing all day and performing at night. “You’re in an ancient walled city outside of Rome,” Keast said.
Nyela Basney, former director of the Midland-Odessa Symphony and Chorale, is the founder and director of Orvieto Musica. She is also artistic director of opera at North Park University in Chicago.
The Orvieto Musica website said the Intensive Strings festival is limited to eight string players and two pianists. It offers daily coaching and master classes with an emphasis on string quartet and piano trio repertoire, as well as large ensemble repertoire. Among the features are that musicians also will perform in four to eight historic buildings and have a chance to take Italian language and culture classes, the website said.
Peralta found out he had been selected in the fall of 2017. He sent a recording of himself playing the first two pages of Sergei Prokofiev’s Solo Violin Sonata and the opening to Mozart’s G Major Violin Concerto.
“It’s something that is way, way bigger than me. I’m just hoping I can find somebody whose sound I can aim for and ask them where they learned to play like that,” Peralta said.
Keast said Peralta will meet some “amazing individuals over the course of the three weeks.”
“You’re going to make some lifelong friends that you’ll be interacting with for the rest of your life inviting them to your stuff and them inviting you to come and play for their students, or their ensembles,” Keast said.
A native of Honduras who moved to the United States at age 1, Peralta played violin at Gale Pond Alamo Elementary School with Maria Mutis.
“It was funny because I didn’t join until two months after the class started. All my friends were in it and it looked like they were having so much fun. I was a little nervous to join, but Miss Mutis let me join late,” Peralta said. “I didn’t have enough money to afford my own instrument, so she let me borrow one of hers for that first year. Then for the next six years after that I used a $100 eBay violin. It was terrible.”
Around the time he hit high school, Peralta realized he was playing out of tune. When he got a better violin, it was like a revelation.
Keast said bad instruments can hold you back.
“The shift was crazy because I knew I sounded bad, but I didn’t realize how bad I sounded until I tried it on my current violin,” Peralta said.
Peralta went to Odessa High School and was concertmaster his senior year. He has held the same position at UTPB since his sophomore year.
Peralta said that means he was the chair of the first violin section.
“It’s a tough position,” he said. “We have to create the bowings for our section. We sit directly in front of the conductor. Most conductors know the music like the back of their hand, so we have to make sure that it sounds exactly like what it says on the page or they’ll know that we’re not doing our job and I’m to assist my section anytime they need my help. It’s a busy position.”
Keast said he realized Peralta was ready for the festival last spring when the UTPB orchestra was the orchestra for Prokofiev’s Cinderella Ballet.
“I was practicing seven hours a day for the show,” Peralta recalled.
Peralta’s senior recital will be at 7 p.m. May 29 in the Rea-Greathouse Recital Hall at the Wagner Noel Performing Arts Center.
He plans to earn a music education degree from UTPB and would like to obtain a head orchestra position, ideally at a high school. But he said he would be happy teaching middle school children, as well.
Keast said what he appreciates about Peralta is his dedication to not just getting things OK, but his wish to perform the music as the composer intended.
“I saw that last spring when he was rehearsing for the Prokofiev ballet,” Keast said. “I knew then that I had a special student in the department and I needed to find something to give him a little bit more of a challenge.”
“As a teacher when we find students that are more advanced than the others, we have to find ways to push them a little harder. Sometimes they look at you and go, ‘What did I do to deserve this?’ … It’s just that I believe you’re capable of it,” Keast added.
Peralta’s current teacher is John Madura, who is serving in his eighth season as concertmaster of the Midland Odessa Symphony orchestra and first violin in the Permian Basin String Quartet.
Madura is concertmaster of the Big Spring Symphony and the Southwest Symphony in Hobbs, N.M. He is also associate concertmaster of the Abilene Philharmonic and is on faculty at UTPB, where he teaches, coaches, and performs, the MOSC website said.
Peralta said Madura and the other instructors in the UTPB music program are geniuses.
“For as cheap as tuition is here, it’s a steal. I was considering (Texas) A&M, (Texas) Tech — bigger schools — my senior year of high school. I ended up staying here. There’s just not a single regret,” Peralta said.
What he enjoys about playing the violin after all these years is that there is always more to learn.
“I do feel semi-confident in my abilities, but I know that there is still much more to learn. I love the learning process and I love the growth,” Peralta said.