Arian Cazares is a senior in high school and a violist in Colburn’s Music Academy under the instruction of Tatjana Masurenko, and he will be joining the Colburn Conservatory in fall 2023.
This interview has been edited for style, content, and clarity.
Please introduce yourself and share a little bit about your background.
My name is Arian Cazares, I’m 18 years old and a senior in high school; I play the viola. I was born and raised in Los Angeles and lived in a small town in Mexico City for a few years during my early childhood. I grew up in Waldorf education. [Waldorf is an education environment that integrates the arts in all academic disciplines for children from preschool through twelfth grade.] Waldorf school is where I began playing. In the third grade, I was introduced to the stringed instrument family. That was a really special moment for me because it was also my first encounter with the viola. The teacher started to play the instruments and asked us to listen to them in order to choose which one we liked. It was this moment when I first heard the sound of the viola and thought, ‘wow, this is something really special,’ and I wanted to explore it. I was fascinated by its warmth and depth of the lower register. And now, almost 10 years later, I’m still exploring it! Now, I’m at the Colburn School. This is my first year in the Music Academy, and I’m studying with Tatjana Masurenko.
Would you provide some background on your Waldorf experience?
In Waldorf, you stay with the same class from kindergarten to eighth grade, often into high school if offered. We also stay with the same teacher; you go through all these different stages of education with one teacher who is a main person guiding you through. It helps to develop a more personal relationship between teacher and students and supports each child in their own way. I attend the Pasadena Waldorf High School in Altadena.
You spoke about your first exposure to string instruments. What was it about music that drew you in and made you determine to invest yourself?
That’s a big question. I’ve been with music for a while, though my family is not actually very musical. I’m more or less the first person in my family to really pursue music. I’ve been singing since I was in kindergarten; through Waldorf, we’re taught about the development of the human voice through singing with each other. And so even though it’s a different type of music, it’s always been a big part of me. And the viola is just another way of accessing that part of me. Over the years, I’ve had a number of instances where I’ve felt a growing passion for music and for what it does. And for me, it’s about the community building—when you’re engaging with someone else, let’s say in chamber music or in orchestra and other musical activities, and there’s this vibrant energy that I have experienced. This experience is sometimes even more meaningful than just playing the music. It’s connecting with others on a different level and that keeps me going and doing what I love to do, which is music.
How did you learn about the Colburn School and the Music Academy?
I’ve known about the Colburn School for a while. When I was much younger, my mom wanted me to be a dancer because both my parents were dancers when they were younger. One time, my mom brought me to Colburn for a modern dance class but it was not for me. Before COVID, I was in the Community School for chamber music but unaware of the Music Academy. I was a quarter finalist in the Fischoff Music Competition, competing with a quartet from Pasadena. And it was the Music Academy’s Olive Trio’s win that I found out about the Colburn Music Academy. I was excited to learn that there were other musicians in my community area performing at this level. So I mentioned the Academy to my mom and that we needed to research it.
What have the performing arts brought to your life?
The performing arts helped me find courage to express my ideas; trust the work that I do as a musician. I think that’s really important for musicians that spend hours and hours in a practice room, questioning whether we’re doing things right, experiencing self-doubt, and all of those things. But the experience of performing is extremely important to become comfortable and to trust yourself and what you’re doing. And I think this important because it’s also reflected outside of music.
Also, to be curious about things. In working with Tatjana this year, she’s brought a whole different perspective of not just music but of life and culture. And it’s really inspired me to discover and find out more about other parts of the world—how other people approach music. This has recently influenced my playing and the way I approach music, and I’m eager to learn more.
Based on your experience, what advice would you give to a new Music Academy student?
I would say most importantly, come with an open heart, with an open mind. At the beginning of the year, I came in not knowing anybody and not really knowing what to expect. It took me saying to myself, ‘Okay, I’m here now and what can I learn? What can I see? And how can I get ahead?’ Oh, also to have patience with yourself. I came in with a very ambitious attitude at the beginning. I told my teacher, Tatjana, that I want to do all these competitions, all these programs; I want to aim for all these things. And I was really surprised when she told me, “I think you should actually wait and organize yourself first.” And I was like, ‘What? But everyone else is doing all these things.’ And she said, “Yes, but it’s most important that you organize yourself and that you find peace in yourself and in you’re playing before you go out into the world.” And that’s really changed the way I think about music.
How about some memorable Colburn experiences?
There’s definitely been a couple; it’s hard to choose. One of them was the first time I played in Tatjana’s studio class with another Academy student and some Conservatory students. It’s a bit daunting since they are older and so talented. But back in November, I played on stage for the first time for everyone and there was a moment where all the stress melted away. I felt really supported by everyone; I could feel their attention for what I was doing. And that helped me loosen up and be more comfortable with my performance. I try to remind myself of that feeling every time that I play.
As the spring semester comes to a close, what’s on your summer schedule?
One thing I’m very much looking forward to is spending a couple of days in Switzerland, accompanied by Tatjana. I’ll be taking some master classes by Tatjana. I’m looking forward to being in such a beautiful landscape in the mountains.
As you applied to the Conservatory and have been accepted, you’ll be joining as part of the fall 2023 incoming class. What do you envision for your future?
I absolutely want to continue playing music. It’s my goal to continue this as a career. I’m very passionate about chamber music; one of my dreams is to tour the world with a quartet. I’m doing a lot of solo work to, and I envision continuing to do so. But for now, I’m most focused on absorbing as much as I can from my teachers and those immediately around me. I leave the rest to the music gods!
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