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Honduran pianist realizes his dream at ASU

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2021 graduates.

Joel Lorenzana

Music has been a crucial part of Joel Adalid Martinez Lorenzana’s life for as long as he can remember.

This spring, he will graduate with a Master of Music in performance with a concentration in performance pedagogy.

Martinez Lorenzana has been collecting music from his home country of Honduras for years, so when he had the opportunity to program a lecture recital consisting exclusively of music composed in Honduras, he was thrilled. Some of the works were handwritten or missing pages, so he had the daunting task of transcribing and reconstructing the pieces. In addition, almost half of a second recital was programmed with contemporary Latin American music.

“Given that I personally know all of these composers, and that I commissioned and premiered two of the works for the first time in my career, made me feel a connection to the music I had never experienced before,” said Martinez Lorenzana. “It was a fantastic experience.”

For several years prior to attending ASU, Martinez Lorenzana had been teaching piano at the largest university in Honduras, the National Autonomous University of Honduras.

“Joel chose to study at ASU with the goal of raising the level of music education in his home country of Honduras,” said Hannah Creviston, clinical associate professor of piano.  “When a student clearly has a vision that reaches far beyond themselves, they take advantage of as many opportunities as possible, and that is just what Joel has done. Additionally, he has used his time here to share Honduran piano music and composers with us, thus enriching our lives and expanding our repertoire. Joel has grown tremendously as a teacher, performer, presenter and musician while here and I am very excited to see the impact he will have in the future.”

Fifteen years after he first learned about ASU in 2006 through an initial meeting with ASU Professor Emeritus Walter Cosand at a summer festival in Indiana, Martinez Lorenzana was able to attend his dream school and complete his degree at a large research university.

Martinez Lorenzana received a Fulbright Scholarship administered by the Latin American Scholarship Program of American Universities, a section of the Fulbright program oriented specifically at Latin American university faculty, which covered his tuition and living expenses while attending ASU.

“Being selected for one of the most prestigious programs of education and cultural exchange in the United States makes me feel very privileged and honored,” said Martinez Lorenzana.

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: I have the fondest memories of my father teaching me piano and the fundamentals of music theory and of my mother taking me to private lessons for years. After an initial business major and halfway through a civil engineering degree in college, I transitioned fully to a music degree and never looked back.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: Everyone is so open and helpful at ASU that it has definitely changed my perspective on how to be a true mentor to my students and to think of creative ways to help them reach their true potential even outside of the classroom.  Every course I have taken has helped me view problems I had been thinking about for years with a fresh perspective. Some of the courses on musicology, music theory and even Latin American studies have shaped my way of thinking and heavily influenced my degree capstone projects.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Professor Hannah Creviston taught me unwavering passion for teaching students of all ages, while also tackling difficult scenarios that require tremendous energy, commitment and preparation head on, such as working with people with disabilities. My piano professor, Dr. Cathal Breslin, taught me to listen and to approach my playing in a whole new way, paying attention to every nuance and detail.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Live in the moment. Every stage of life is wonderful, so make sure to put in the work in everything you do as it will certainly pay later. Take advantage of all the incredible resources available at ASU and its knowledgeable faculty. Time flies and before you realize it, you will be done.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?  

A: The Music Library. The huge collection of books, videos and CDs, and especially all the scores made it my favorite spot by far to read and to work on all the writing assignments.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I am starting a PhD in music education at Western University next fall.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would tackle community music making. Western culture has rendered hundreds of cultures around the world invisible. Without limitations imposed by curriculum, standardization and accreditation of institutions — I think, therefore I am — community musicmaking can thrive and engage in practices from different native peoples that does not limit their view of the world as something to just know but something that has to be lived and experienced. I would aim to bring forward the “otherwise” of being-feel-make-think (embodied experience) of native cultures as opposed to knowing only.

lamacdon@asu.edu