When Walter Fernando Aparicio was a young boy growing up in West New York, he was introduced to classical music, long before he heard any of the contemporary pop artists.
“I think I always listened to classical music,” said Aparicio, a native of Bolivia who has called North Bergen home for the last seven years. “I listened to classical music more than anything else.”
So when Aparicio was in fifth grade, he wanted to learn how to play the piano.
“I like piano music particularly and wanted to learn,” Aparicio said. “I was actually a little old to begin to learn.”
Aparicio began to take lessons at age 11 with famed teacher Professor Phillip Dieckow at the Dieckow School of Music in Hoboken.
“Let’s just say I didn’t play well when I started,” Aparicio said. “But I knew I liked it and really wanted to go through with it.”
Now 25 years old, Aparicio is ready to take the biggest step of his musical career. Tonight (Sunday, April 29, at 5:30 p.m.), he will perform in a personal piano recital at the famed Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall in New York, his first solo recital on a grand stage.
“I’m probably more excited than I am nervous,” Aparicio said. “I usually get nervous when I’m not prepared, but I made sure that I was prepared for this. I’ve been rehearsing for two weeks to get ready for this performance. It’s a great honor for me.”
Aparicio, a graduate of Memorial High School in West New York, said that he was the typical high school music student while at Memorial.
“I was in the marching band and play clarinet in the band,” Aparicio said. “I was in the school’s jazz band and played keyboards for the school musical. I did everything.”
It was Aparicio’s love of classical music that drove him to become a student at the New York University School of Music, where he majored in – you guessed it – classical piano.
“It’s a specific program that you have to audition for to get into,” Aparicio said. “You basically study classical piano.”
Teen Arts winner
During his career, Aparicio performed in several different competitions. In 1994, he was the winner of the National Piano Playing Audition competition in New Jersey. A year later, he was a winner at the Hudson County Teen Arts Festival and the New Jersey Network Hispanic Youth Showcase.
After enrolling at NYU, Aparicio was named the top collegiate piano player in New York at the Empire State Piano Competition. He has performed in such prestigious places as St. Petersburg in Russia, Beijing in China, and in his native hometown of La Paz in Bolivia.
After graduating from NYU with a Bachelor’s degree in classical piano performance, Aparicio went on to graduate school at the Manhattan School of Music, where he recently completed his Master’s degree.
“That was all to get ready for this,” Aparicio said.
Aparicio said that he auditioned for the recital at Carnegie Hall over a year ago, before he finished his Master’s studies at the Manhattan School of Music.
“There are thousands of musicians who audition for the recitals,” Aparicio said. “I didn’t know if I could do it, because I never played a full recital before. I know it’s tough, but I had to do whatever I could to get myself known. When I found out that I was getting the chance, I was really excited and thrilled. It’s a big honor.”
Aparicio said that he is currently pursuing a doctorate of music, but he still finds time to perform in small recitals, perhaps 15 or so during the course of the year.
However, this performance is the big break he was waiting for.
“I know there aren’t a lot of musicians who get this chance,” Aparicio said. “I think this one will be easier for me, because I’m not playing to be judged or graded. No one is going to judge me. I’m just playing to enjoy myself, hope the audience enjoys themselves and have a good time. I just have to do my job.”
Variety of pieces
Aparicio will perform a variety of pieces during his recital. He will begin with an aria written by Bach and continue with the Sonata No. 30 written by Beethoven. After intermission, he will come back with the work of more contemporary classical composers, like Eduardo Caba’s “Aires Lindos,” Simeon Roncal’s “Cuescas para Piano,” and pieces from composers Pierre Boulez and Alberto Ginastera.
“There will be a lot of Bolivian music in the program,” Aparicio said. “That’s my influence and where I come from. I have to find things that are different.”
Aparicio knows that he will be playing with a lot of local family and friends on hand. For example, Aparicio’s teacher from Memorial, Adeline Leurs, is organizing a trip of her students to see Aparicio perform.
“I know a lot of people are excited for me,” Aparicio said. “They’re all coming to support me and that makes me happy.”
Did Aparicio ever dream of the day where he would play at Carnegie Hall?
“I never did,” Aparicio said. “This is beyond a dream. I never thought it was possible, especially when I went to college, because I felt that everyone was so much better than me. I knew I had to work harder to get better.”
After the recital, Aparicio will continue with his music career.
“In the long term, I’d probably love to have the chance to teach at a university,” Aparicio said. “We have to see what happens.”
You never know. He may end up performing at a local wedding or church.
“I do that from time to time,” Aparicio said. “I get offers to perform at weddings and I play at church. I try not to turn any away, because, hey, it’s good money.” Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at either OGSMAR@aol.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Tickets for tonight’s recital (Sunday, April 29) featuring North Bergen resident Walter Fernando Aparicio are priced at $25 and can be purchased at the Weill Recital Hall Box Office, located at 154 West 57th St., one hour prior to the 5:30 p.m. curtain.