Arts and Culture / Magazine Feature

Lamont’s artist diploma attracts professional performers

When pianist Aldo Ragone applied to the artist diploma program at DU’s Lamont School of Music, he had already graduated from the Conservatory of Santa Cecilia in Rome, had a doctorate from the University of Maryland, performed at the Kennedy Center and won numerous piano competitions across Europe.

“The artist diploma program fit what I was looking for, focusing on the performance in an academic environment,” says Ragone, who is in his second year of the two-year program.

“We attract high-level professionals,” says Ricardo Iznaola, chair of the guitar and harp department and coordinator of the program. “Most of the candidates have doctorate or master’s degrees, already have professional careers and are the more advanced students at Lamont.”

The program, which began in 1994, grants admission to a maximum of two candidates per year per discipline and is the most selective program offered in Lamont.

While it seems counterintuitive for such high-caliber performers to seek out a non-degree program, Iznaola says artists understand the value of training.

“Even the greats like Domingo and Pavarotti kept coaches throughout their careers,” he says. “Mentoring and coaching don’t stop with a degree.”

Organist Bohee Kim sought out the program after earning a master’s degree from the University of Memphis.

“I always had a feeling that I needed more time to practice rather than doing papers for class,” Kim says. “I wanted to focus on performance.”

And perform they do. Artist diploma students are required to perform three solo recitals, participate in ensemble or chamber activities and take lessons with their designated instructor almost daily.

“For me, I have to keep my pace up, both practicing and performing every day,” Kim says. “It can be both intense and inspirational and it’s extended my organ music repertoire so much.”

To meet the requirements, Kim and Ragone both had to perform. Ragone performed May 11 and Kim will perform her last recital May 28 at 7:30 p.m. in Hamilton Recital Hall in the Newman Center.

It’s a schedule Ragone balances with a full-time job as an adjunct faculty member at Regis University.

“It’s very meaningful to me to have the chance to communicate to music students my personal experience and give them the chance to express their human and artistic potentiality at the instrument,” he says. “Of course, it is not easy to coordinate two different activities such as performing and teaching, but in a way they are complementary to each other.”

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