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ASU School of Music doctoral student wins prestigious symphony competition

Arizona State University School of Music doctoral student Nathaniel De la Cruz recently won first prize in the prestigious Coeur d'Alene Symphony National Young Artists College Strings Competition held in Spokane, Washington.

Nathaniel De la Cruz.

“The experience was totally rewarding and quite inspiring,” said De la Cruz, a DMA in performance major.

De la Cruz began studying double bass with School of Music Associate Professor Catalin Rotaru a little over two years ago and said he not only considers Rotaru his mentor, but also his hero on learning the instrument.

His work with Rotaru helped him prepare for the competition.

De la Cruz said he did not feel ready to compete in the 2019 competition and decided to work harder leading up to the 2020 competition. The extra practice and work paid off when he took first prize.  

He performed “The Nine Variants on Paganini” by Frank Proto, a challenging piece he has been preparing for more than a year. Based on the Paganini Caprice No. 24 for violin, the composer leaves room for the performer to compose their own cadenza. De la Cruz said his cadenza is inspired by other performers who have played the piece and on the Bottermund-Starker Variations on Paganini for cello.

As competition winner, De la Cruz will be featured as a soloist with the Coeur d'Alene Symphony in two concerts, March 13 and 14, and will perform “The Nine Variants on Paganini” with his winning cadenza.

De la Cruz said he loves the performance world in general, especially chamber and orchestral music, with his favorite performing as soloist. He said he also likes teaching and currently serves as a teaching assistant with the School of Music and with Harmony Project Phoenix, where he teaches 12 students.

“Many of the things I learn about my own playing is also through teaching and listening to others,” he said. “One of my goals, apart from being an active performer, is to keep inspiring more young students to play the double bass as the level of the competition is increasing tremendously. And, of course, I also hope to be their hero someday.”