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Q-and-A with Ramiro Miranda: Conductor takes on difficult Stravinsky piece

Ramiro Miranda and family

Ramiro Miranda, M.M. ’13, poses with his wife, Irene Diaz-Gill-Henning, M.M. ’13, and son, and Dr. Carl Cortese at the Reception for College of Fine Arts Graduating Scholarship and Award Recipients and Donors. Miranda was a recipient of the Bernard Eichen Scholarship, to which Cortese is a founding donor.

Ramiro Miranda, M.M. ’13, used a Friends of the Arts grant this past school year to put on his innovative production of Igor Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale.

In April, Miranda, who graduated from Illinois State University’s School of Music with a double degree in violin performance and orchestral conducting, led on-campus performances of the theatrical work. The Asuncion, Paraguay, native recently shared his thoughts on The Soldier’s Tale and the importance of Friends of the Arts grants.

Why did you become a musician and a conductor?

I have been immersed in music since I can remember, and I initially started out as a violinist in a chamber orchestra called Camerata Miranda. I was always interested in more than just knowing my own part in the orchestra, and I was always looking for better ways to understand music, but it wasn’t until the last years of my undergraduate degree (at Pittsburgh State University) that I realized that conducting was my true calling. When I came to Illinois State University, I found even more opportunities since I have had the good fortune to become the assistant conductor for the ISU Orchestras.

Tell me a little bit about the project for which you received the Friends of the Arts grant, The Soldier’s Tale, and what was the forum for your work?

Soldier’s Tale by Igor Stravinsky is a unique work. It has a small ensemble composed of seven instrumentalists, including two string players, two woodwind players, two brass players, and a percussionist, all of them performing a part among the most difficult in their instrument’s repertoire. Additionally, there is a narrator, two actors playing the roles of Devil and Soldier, and a dancer playing the role of Princess. The piece is very complex due to the rhythmically involved score, plus the fact that the music and the acting are intricately involved. In addition to this, I adapted the score to serve a wider audience, making it apt for children as well. I also asked composer Lisa Eleazarian to write an introductory piece to Soldier’s Tale, and she called it “A Listener’s Guide to Soldier’s Tale.”

In total, 18 people were involved in the production of this work. We had the great fortune to count on Kim Pereira as our theater director, and my conducting instructor, Glenn Block, who was there every step of the way.

Why did you choose this project, what challenges did it present, and what did it mean to see it finished?

I chose to do Soldier’s Tale because it is a universal piece. Everybody should be familiar with the story and the music that it presents. In addition, every young conductor must be prepared to lead such a difficult piece, one of the most difficult in a conductor’s repertoire.

As a conductor, studying the piece presents many challenges in itself, but I had that part figured out long before I had the musicians and actors to make it a reality. We are told that conducting is the easy part; it is everything else that a conductor has to do in between that is the most challenging. One of the biggest challenges was to find rehearsal time where everybody involved could come. We also had to replace one of the musicians when one became very gravely ill, about two weeks before our performances. I was lucky to count on the help of my brother Jose Miranda, who decided to come and visit and play the astonishingly hard violin part in such short notice.

Why was the Friends of the Art grant important?

The grant received from Friends of the Arts was vital for the making of Soldier’s Tale. I simply wouldn’t have had the financial means to make Soldier’s Tale a reality. In addition, having Friends of the Arts on your side means much more than financial aid. It is very reassuring to know that there are people who believe in the work of the students like me. I am forever indebted to them for all their help and support.

What projects are you working on now?

I just came back to the United States from my home country, Paraguay, where I volunteered in the string projects at the Miranda School of Music, a music school that is training the future generation of outstanding musicians in Paraguay. In total, the music school benefited from the visit of seven professors from three American universities who taught group lessons, master classes, sectionals, and played with the orchestra in different concerts. While I was there, I was actively involved in these activities, participating as conductor in one of the concerts, and as a violinist in another. This project is an ongoing one, and I am actively involved in the promotion of their concerts and activities.

Are there any future plans you would like to share?

I have been accepted at the doctoral program of orchestral conducting at University of Missouri-Kansas City, where I will be studying with Robert Olson. I have also been asked to be the assistant conductor to Kirk Muspratt in the Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra. I am looking forward to a new chapter of my musical life.

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