July 10, 2019 Artist to Watch: Wagner Duarte
From Performance to Composition
Wagner Duarte is a musician, composer and music educator. Duarte’s interest in music is to develop and propagate the musical language of his beloved Brazil. He started learning the guitar at the age of ten with his father and the cello by the age of seventeen. Wagner holds a bachelors degree in cello performance, a masters in music theory and is currently enrolled in the Ph.D program in composition at LSU. He is very interested in how music plays a crucial role in connecting people of different cultures and backgrounds.
Have you always been interested in music?
- Coming from a family of musicians and music lovers, my earliest memories as a child are bonded with music. It was very common to have live music performed at my family gatherings so my interest for music grew very organically. As a matter fact, when I was a kid, I naively believed that every family was made out of musicians :). Although I had a very close relationship with music in my family, I wanted to become a lawyer in my teenage years and I had already planned my career as such. My interest towards music and the arts was only re-ignited when I was introduced to the cello and all the universe of classical music by the age of seventeen. That excitement of re-discovering something that is familiar to you in a completely new gaze dazzled me and still does. Since then, despite the many attempts, I was never able to get out of music. It is something visceral to me. I have the urge to be involved with music.
Who are your musical influences?
-My musical education was peculiar and heteroclite: I spent most of my childhood and adolescence appreciating the music of great masters of Brazilian music: Pixinguinha, Waldir Azevedo, Jacob do Bandolin, Altamiro Carrilho, Chiquinha Gonzaga among others. I was only exposed to the music of the great masters of European music like Bach, Beethoven, Haydn much later. Though the fact that I was born specifically in the northeast region of Brazil was crucial and made me open to most of the folkloric arts of Brazil like the music and dances of Baião, Reisado, Coco de Roda and others. The geographic location where I was born plays an extremely important role in the music I write and is intrinsically a part of my compositional voice.
Why the cello?
-The cello was actually suggested to me by a violinist and friend of the family. I initially wanted to learn the violin, but then this friend suggested the cello and I started taking cello lessons with a violinist (!). I had to teach myself most of the basics of the instrument once I would only have access to a cello teacher much later. Gradually the cello became a natural fit for me, even though it was not my first choice.
Do you play any other instruments?
-My first instrument was the guitar. I started learning the guitar with my father at an early age and that was my first musical training. I also have some basic experience with the flute and recorder. My grandfather was a band director so, when I was a kid and at his house, my favorite thing to do was to mess around with grandpa’s instruments when he was not there.
Did you pursue any formal training?
-Yes! My interest for music led me to seek professional training and to become a professional musician. I have a bachelors degree in Cello performance, a masters in music theory and I am currently enrolled on a PH.D program in composition at LSU.
What is your greatest memory when playing jazz music?
-Well, I would say that improv music was somewhat always with me too. I think the most remarkable thing about it is the ways in which one can easily and efficiently communicate with others. I have played improv sessions with people that I've never met and they are now great friends of mine. My greatest memories when playing improv music was back at my hometown, playing cello with a guitarist and a percussionist, while surrounded by a group of people. I find it incredible the power of improv music in bonding people together.
What are your plans this summer?
-I am currently focused on composing a series of pieces that feature one string instrument accompanied by a string quartet. They are four in total and they are meant to be played in public spaces and to create a connection with the open public. Part of my idea of composition is to create music that may be accessible to the open public and not only restricted to the concert halls. For that reason, I am involved with projects like Music in Middleton (idealized by Mikel Ledee) that brings a series of concerts at the Middleton library, as well as other venues on LSU campus. I am also involved in other more independent artistic projects.
Do you have any upcoming performances?
-I will performing at the Louisiana Arts Summit Opening Reception on Monday 6pm, July 15th at the Capitol Park Museum!
-I have a couple of concerts with my compositions at LSU Middleton library as well as at the school of arts & design. I also perform with the Louisiana Sinfonietta ensemble.
Where can people keep up with your journey.