UTEP Music Professor Takes Piano Into the Community

By Lisa Y. Garibay

UTEP News Service

Make plans: “Music for All,” a free, public concert by Oscar Macchioni, D.M.A., UTEP professor of music, 2 p.m. on April 28 at La Fe Preparatory School, 616 E. Father Rahm Ave.

While technology usually triumphs in the 21st century, UTEP Professor of Music Oscar Macchioni, D.M.A., is proving that there’s nothing to beat good, old-fashioned person-to-person contact, especially when it comes to teaching the value of classical music.

“There can be a big disconnect between the most amazing musicians and the public if those performers don’t connect with the public,” Macchioni said. “If you go to a rock concert, the performers talk to the audience and tell stories before they play a song. But if you go to a classical concert, you sit quietly and can’t make noise. It’s very artificial.”

UTEP Music Professor Oscar Macchioni, D.M.A., conducts free piano concerts throughout El Paso as part of a classical music outreach program. Photo courtesy of Oscar Macchioni.
UTEP Music Professor Oscar Macchioni, D.M.A., conducts free piano concerts throughout El Paso as part of a classical music outreach program. Photo courtesy of Oscar Macchioni.

Macchioni explained that it wasn’t always so. In Mozart’s time, audience members ate, drank, talked and even played games during concerts. Macchioni borrowed from that historical background for his program.

“My idea was to bring it to them and let them feel that they can dress however they like, talk or applaud in the middle of the piece, I don’t care,” he said. “What I care about is that they enjoy the music on their terms, not my terms.”

Macchioni received funding from the City of El Paso for his program “Music for All” to present four public concerts over the course of a year.

The goal of Macchioni’s project is to touch a wide variety of El Pasoans, enriching them by offering free presentations on classical music in public libraries, schools, community centers and other locations, especially those that are least likely to be visited by a classically trained pianist. Macchioni also conducts a discussion and provides guidance to help his audience feel more comfortable with classical music.

“This program adds quality of life to communities that usually do not come downtown for concerts,” said Socorro Diamonstein, cultural funding coordinator for the City of El Paso Museum and Cultural Affairs Department. “Oscar Macchioni is excellent at explaining the background of the pieces that he is going to perform. Listening to him is a gift for the youth that attend the concerts.”

Sophomore music education major Jewell Crye — who has been studying piano proficiency with Macchioni — attended his first “Music for All” concert at Burges Library in November 2013.

“Attending the concert was a very pleasant experience,” Crye said. “It is incredibly important for young music students to experience live music, yet often, it is so difficult to come by. El Paso is a city that is not immune to poverty and often times the price of tickets is out of reach for many young children and their families.”

Crye is excited that Macchioni’s free concerts make music available to everyone, especially students and their parents.

“Not only does this help students with their own studies, it helps family bonds and encourages better family interactions,” she said. “I know when I am an educator I will definitely take advantage of these concerts for my students, and will encourage other educators to do the same.”

This kind of program cultivates a greater audience and builds community support, while also helping UTEP students appreciate that they must include community service and educating others if they are going to be music professionals.

Concerts have been nearly filled to capacity, even though many venues offer limited seating or minimal advertising. Audience reactions, measured by comment forms Macchioni asks attendees to fill out after the presentation, rate the event as “excellent.”

Macchioni will bring classical music to life for students, faculty, staff and families at La Fe Preparatory School in Segundo Barrio at 2 p.m. April 28. He will then perform at Southwest Keys Immigrant Youth Shelter to wrap up his grant program year at a date later this spring.

Through outreach efforts like the “Music for All” program, Macchioni is happy to receive positive feedback for the art form that is his passion.

“People like this,” he said with enthusiasm. “We just need to bring it to them.”