Eight hours of Chopin

Student profile: Valeria Bonapersona

By Julie Albers

Five hours per day behind the piano – it’s nothing unusual for first-year Valeria Bonapersona (20). Miraculously, she manages to combine UCU with the conservatorium Pareggiato di Musica “Puccini” in Italy, successfully completing her Bachelor there two weeks ago. “There was no time to celebrate: already the next day I had a UCU-exam.”

Seven years ago, Valeria was accepted at the conservatorium. To do so, she combined high school in the morning with music classes in the afternoon. “Piano class is only one hour per week,” she explains. The remaining time is filled with lectures, composition classes and choir: “Piano and singing is like mathematics and biology: you need some of both to fully understand each.”

After a gap year, she had to decide between music and studying abroad. One thing was clear: she wouldn’t be the same person without her piano. “Piano is a huge part of me. It’s hard to explain, but it’s more than a simple passion.” So she didn’t choose.

Valeria openly told UCU’s admissions office that she would never give up playing the piano. In return, she was warned combining piano and college might not be as easy as she had imagined. But did they really understand what it meant to her? She made up her mind: “Let’s try it!”

However, university and music are two separate parts. “I can’t think of myself without these two parts – I want to grow in both directions.” Still, combining them presents a continuous challenge. Every month, Valeria flies back to Italy to the conservatorium. “I am authorized to organize everything myself,” she says, so she squeezes classes and family time in a few days.

So while you were enjoying your winter break, Valeria had to study for eight hours a day for her Bachelor’s exams. “I am exhausted: mentally, emotionally and physically. It’s hard sometimes, but I know I would be worse off without it.”

Valeria knew she wanted to play the piano already at the age of two. Her father didn’t give in that easily: even if he supported her involvement with music, being musician was a no-go. So Valeria would ask Santa Clause the same thing every single year – to be able to play. A CD of Chopin’s nocturnes, ironically a gift from her father, was the final incentive. “Chopin is the reason why I started to play,” Valeria says. At 12, she finally got the chance to start playing and mere two years later she got accepted at the conservatorium.

Because of her late start, Valeria encountered several problems with technique, speed and confidence. “The beginning was awful. I even thought about quitting.” But her passion, supported by an excellent memory, prevailed and she managed to catch up through countless hours of work.

Now, Valeria plays all musical styles, besides jazz and improvising. Still, she mostly plays classical. And while her mother has always supported her, her father has only recently accepted her passion. Valeria jokes: “I’m just making fun of him. He regrets his initial doubts!”

No future plans have been decided upon yet. “My dream is to become a researcher in neuroscience.  But I won’t stop playing.” Above all, she considers herself lucky. “I have two passions, while most people don’t even have one! I do what I like, I enjoy it and it makes me happy.”


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