Mario Rivera of Honduras has the talent, skill, and drive to study music anywhere in the world. He chose Valdosta State University because it offered him an outstanding Department of Music faculty and the opportunity to learn English.
The second oldest of four boys, Rivera was 13 years old when his family discovered that he had a gift for music. His parents enrolled him in the Victoriano Lopez School of Music. He attended traditional high school classes six hours a day, enjoyed a one-hour break, and returned for five hours of music classes Monday through Friday.
Two years after he first entered the special music school, Rivera was playing viola with the Central America Youth Orchestra. A year after that, he won the first of two back-to-back gold medals in the music school’s annual Juan Tutto Diffent Concerto Competition. He said he was the first viola player to win that competition.
Rivera, 23, graduated from high school in 2007 and auditioned for and was accepted by the world-class YOA Orchestra of the Americas the following year. For two years, he studied, traveled, and performed in the most prestigious concert halls of Europe and the Americas. During that time, he often thought about attending college, but he did not think his English was good enough for him to take advantage of offers coming to him from United States-based colleges.
In the fall of 2011, after traveling and sharing his talent with the world, Rivera made the decision to enter VSU. His reasoning was very simple; with its innovative English Language Institute, VSU ensured him that he would receive the language instruction he so desperately desired and needed to be a successful student in the United States. He spent a full semester studying the English language before registering for classes and working toward a Bachelor of Music.
A junior music performance major, Rivera said that he practiced his music 10 hours a day when he first arrived at VSU. He was too excited about the opportunity he had been given to study music in the United States and did not want to let himself or his instructors down. Now that he has settled in, he practices four to eight hours a day, depending on his class schedule. He won the Valdosta Symphony Orchestra’s annual Concerto Competition in January of 2013.
“It is important to dream and have very big goals,” he said, adding that he has only been playing the viola for roughly a decade. “I may not get there, but I will [at least] get close” — and that is further than he would have gotten had he been too afraid to dream at all.