David Gracia hand on chinDavid Gracia was born in Zaragoza, Spain and at an early age started his musical studies at the Infantes del Pilar’s Cathedral Boys’ Choir where he received a well-rounded education as a singer, pianist, and conductor. After pursuing piano and chamber music studies at the Music Conservatory of Zaragoza he came to New York and enrolled in the Aaron Copland School of Music of Queens College where he earned a Bachelor of Music degree in piano performance and a Master of Arts degree in musicology, both summa cum laude. Recently he has been appointed adjunct teacher at the Aaron Copland School of Music (ACSM) where he has taught several courses at the undergraduate level. As a piano and music teacher he has been a faculty member at both the Performing Arts Conservatory of New York (Queens, NY) since 2009 and the Piano School of NYC for the 2009-2010 academic year. In addition, he has served as choir director and organist for several church congregations in Spain and New York City. He has been awarded several scholarships and awards from the ACSM including the Theodore Presser Foundation Scholarship, The Karol Rathaus Memorial Award, and the Associated Music Teachers League Award among others. In addition he was granted the A.I.E. Scholarship by the Spanish National Association of Artists and Performers. As a pianist, he won the second prize and “best interpretation of Spanish music” prize at the “Gregorio Baudot” Piano Competition in El Ferrol, Spain. His most influential piano teachers include Olga Semouchina, Paul Ostrovsky, and Edna Golandsky. He participated for two consecutive years in the orchestral conducting program with the New York Youth Symphony Orchestra where his teachers included Paul Haas, and Mark Seto. As part of this program, he has performed at Carnegie Hall, Symphony Space, and Kupferberg Center Performances as an assistant and principal conductor. 

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A Talk with David Gracia

1) Why did you apply to the Abreu Fellows Program?

This program is a unique opportunity to develop and use my musical talents for a noble and very ambitious educational and social cause.

2) What tools will you develop during this fellowship and how do you think these tools will be useful in your future post?

This program will give me thorough knowledge and a complete picture of how El Sistema works in Venezuela, which will be a valuable tool to adapt it successfully in the USA. The opportunity to see the work of other fellows and professionals that are developing similar projects in other parts of the USA and abroad will be a great asset to build strong relationships that would help to spread this movement more efficiently.

3) Where do you see yourself in five years? What will you be doing and why?

I plan to coordinate and/or sponsor this movement in the USA and abroad. More specifically I envision creating an orchestra of young Hispanic musicians that would function both as a mentoring place to give access to high-quality musical education to children and as a platform to become better musicians, which would give them access to higher-level musical institutions.

4) Why do you think that music education is important to a child’s development?

Music education not only awakes ones aesthetic sensibilities but also provides certain values such as discipline, hard-work, solidarity, sociability, and determination to achieve a goal, which help one to become a better citizen. Music also helps children to find their own uniqueness which is crucial for personal and professional development.

5) Write a short analysis of the present state of music education for children in the US. What has been done right and where do you see room for improvement?

In my limited knowledge of the music education system in the US, I think there is a gap between the high-level quality of youth orchestras and music schools and the accessibility to these programs for all children. There are many music programs that provide great opportunities for children, but it is necessary to coordinate all these efforts in a more efficient manner with more strategic alliances between these programs. 

6) How did you learn about El Sistema?

A few years ago, a friend of mine, who is my roommate and fellow musician, introduced me to the work of Maestro Abreu through the documentaries about El Sistema. Right away I understood the deep impact that this movement could have in the lives of many children and I knew I wanted to be involved with it.

7) Why do you think El Sistema is unique? What elements made the El Sistema program successful where others were not?

El Sistema is not only a social movement through music: it is a way of living. It is based on passion, hard work, solidarity, and honesty through music. These values are applied to any sphere of our lives. Apart from that, Maestro Abreu had the vision and ability to project his dream into a group of musicians, who became very passionate and committed to this movement. This passion created a strong “nucleo” that changed the face and soul of an entire nation. Another aspect is the importance of providing high-quality music education from the very beginning. Maestro Abreu promised to make the eleven musicians who attended the very first rehearsal more than thirty years ago, one of the best orchestras of the world, and by fighting for the impossible he made his vision become reality.

8) Have you worked with or mentored children in the past?

For several years I have been teaching music to children in different roles such as individual piano lessons, group music and piano lessons, as well as choir director. I have always been very sensitive to their different natures in order to help them develop the fullest of their musical talents while enjoying and sharing with other fellows.