|Peña Composes Music at Boston Conservatory|
Channeling elements of classical literature into his own classical music, Felix Peña, a 2006 UST music graduate, has recently earned recognition as an emerging composer.
Peña, who is currently pursuing a Master of Music in composition at Boston Conservatory, earned second place in Houston’s Foundation for Modern Music 2008-2009 Robert Avalon Competition for Young Composer’s on Sunday, May 17.
The competition is named in honor of The Foundation for Modern Music’s late Artistic Director Robert Avalon, who devoted himself to the encouragement and education of young musicians throughout the Houston area.
“I am extremely honored to have been named a finalist and to earn second place in the Robert Avalon Competition for Young Composers,” Peña said. “Competitions like this are an excellent way to give young and aspiring composers exposure, a chance to have their compositions performed and heard by an audience. We also gain experience in working with performers, and get to see how the music world works.”
Peña’s award-winning composition titled, “Behold Dis,” or the Latin, “Ecco Dite,” was written for clarinet and piano, and drew inspiration from Dante’s Inferno, Peña said. The piece was performed by two musicians at the Robert Avalon competition concert on May 17.
“Dante’s Inferno is something I studied here at St. Thomas. As I was browsing through the cantos, I found references to the name Dis, which is an antiquated name for Lucifer,” Peña said. “The music illustrates the descent into hell, the encounter with Lucifer, and the ascension back to Earth.”
“Felix’ compelling music really drew the audience in,” said Paul Krystofiak, a UST adjunct professor of music who mentored Peña at St. Thomas. “It is great to see him developing into such a mature musician. I am very grateful to his high school piano teacher, Nina Drath, for sending him to study with me at UST for his undergraduate music degree.
“Felix first struck me as possessing a big natural talent when I heard him perform as a senior in high school at a competition in Corpus Christi in which I was adjudicating. It is gratifying to witness his maturing into such a wonderful musician with his continued studies in Boston."
The natural talent that Krystofiak observed didn’t manifest itself until Peña’s teenage years – a late start among pianists, many of whom begin training soon after they learn to speak.
“I started playing piano at 17,” Peña said. “Even though I started late, in my senior year of high school, I won second place in the Sonatina and Sonata International Youth Piano Competition, and got to play at Carnegie Hall in September, 2002. When I was looking at colleges, my piano teacher recommended I study with Paul Krystofiak at UST. He helped me not only develop my piano technique and abilities, but he was also the bridge that helped me see my true passion for music composition.”
Peña said UST prepared him for his current endeavors to complete his master’s degree in one of the most competitive conservatory programs in the nation.
“My education at UST also instilled me with the sense of responsibility, the dedication and the confidence I need to tackle anything in the world of academia and in my musical pursuits.”
After he earns his master’s Peña hopes to have a fruitful career in music composition and plans to teach composition and theory.
“It’s incredible how music works, how it affects us emotionally and spiritually in some ways. If I can help communicate the power of music to someone else, that would be a very rewarding career,” Peña said.