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Ian Herrera

Class of 2019
Major: Music Composition 

Ian is a senior at the Blair School of Music majoring in music composition and theory. He is passionate about writing music and learning from diverse traditions of folk music. His primary instrument is the violin, but he also plays the piano and an assortment of West African percussive instruments, just to name a few. During his junior year he designed a yearlong study abroad research project to complete his junior thesis and to compose sambas, which led him to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

His initial introduction to the rich culture and sounds of Brazil began while he was still in the states. Through Brazilian friends Ian was introduced to the vivacity and dynamism of Samba. He immersed himself in music of sambistas such as Cartola, Lupicínio Rodrigues, and Dorival Caymmi, studying intensely every technical and aesthetic aspect that gave life to this genre of music. To the bewilderment of his Brazilian friends, the countless hours Ian spent absorbing the poetry of Brazilian music left him nearly fluent in the Portuguese language.

As part of the curriculum at Blair, Ian trained heavily in the canon of European classical music. This intimacy with the principles of counterpoint and functional harmony which undergird Western European art music served as the initial foundation of his compositional craft. As he prepared for his experience in Brazil, Ian was determined to continue building on this foundation by expanding his musical vocabulary and pursing his newfound passion for Samba.

During his sojourn in Brazil, Ian was endlessly inspired by the community under which he studied, eagerly composing music as he immersed himself in the culture of Rio de Janeiro. With the assistance of the Villa-Lobos Museum (O Museu Villa-Lobos) in Botafogo he completed his junior thesis on the exploration of dance rhythms in the monumental symphonic work Chôros No.6 (1926) by the composer and namesake of the museum Heitor Villa-Lobos, regarded as the grandfather of Latin American classical music. Ian studied privately with distinguished Brazilian composer Henrique Dawid Korenchendler, who remains a close mentor to this day, and even became personally acquainted with some of Brazil’s leading interpreters of Bossa Nova including the guitarist Hélio Delmiro and the vocalist Ithamara Koorax.

Ian’s experience in Brazil energized his love of music and sparked a new love of language—and for this he is enormously grateful. Ian takes great pride in his contribution to musicological scholarship on Heitor Villa-Lobos, in the many sambas he continues to compose, and in the lasting bonds he has created with the Brazilian communities that welcomed him into their homes and culture as one of their own.