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Rising UH Composer Hones Craft as First Bosarge Affiliated Fellow

Carlos Cordero focused on commissions during the month-long fellowship in Rome.

This summer has been a whirlwind for graduate composition student Carlos Cordero.

As the very first recipient of the Marie T. Bosarge Affiliated Fellowship, he worked alongside Rome Prize recipients from May 7 – June 4 at the American Academy in Rome, connecting with new mentors, refining his craft and working on original pieces.

Cordero often looks to the written word — poetry, in particular — for inspiration. The two projects he focused on during the month-long fellowship, orchestral sketches based on Pablo Neruda’s poems and a choral piece entitled “Tonight, ”were no exception.

The projects, one commissioned by bass/baritone Kerry Wilkerson and soprano Danielle Talamantes, the other by Dr. Brady Allred and the Salt Lake Vocal Artists, both played to Cordero’s strengths as a composer, while also pushing him out of his comfort zone. For example, “Tonight” features singing bowls, which was a first. “That was a new experience,” he laughs. 

The experience has been a dream come true for the rising composer. Though Cordero is no stranger to traveling abroad for his art — he recently competed with the Concert Chorale at the Béla Bartók International Choir Competition, where his original piece “This Sky” was premiered — this fellowship afforded him a truly unique opportunity to develop as an artist.

“I had so many high hopes about what the fellowship would offer, but I left the Academy with more than I ever envisioned,” he says.

Learn more about his experience at the Academy, his creative process and what’s next on the horizon in our Q&A!

What did you find intriguing about this Fellowship and why did you apply?

As a composer, the idea of having my own space to work in, without worrying about anything else, while meeting such accomplished and caring, supportive people on a daily basis, was a dream. I applied because I believe that studying and working abroad is always a rewarding and meaningful activity that everybody should have the opportunity to do, at least once in their life. 

How did being at the American Academy in Rome help advance your projects?

It was a privilege to be able to sit and focus on me, on my music. But more importantly, the artists there were interested in my daily progress and my career. They constantly shared their experiences and thoughts with me, and helped me find the exact parts of Rome I needed to visit in order to find something to say in my music. One of my favorites visits was to St. Peter’s Basilica where I could see its marvelous art, listen to mass, and go to the cupule and see the whole city.

What was unique about the environment?

I made every corner of the Academy a working space for me. I would move every day from one place to another — from the garden, to the stairs or the library — and find new perspectives. It helped me to be freer and taught me about my music making process and way of thinking. My favorite place was at the fountain in the middle of the Academy. There, I could hear and see all the birds, flying (or hopping!) around. There, I found the most beautiful sounds. 

It was also my first visit to Rome. Most of the time, I took walks and visited churches and town squares. I sat and wrote in most of these places. Later, at the Academy, I would try to translate these experiences into music. Every little piece of art gave me such a new perspective on human expression and what we are capable of. What an introduction to this amazing place!