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Doctoral student awarded 2 1st place titles in international music competitions

Nathaniel De la Cruz

February 19, 2021

Double bass player Nathaniel De la Cruz recently won first place in the 2020 Talent Show of the Charleston International Music Competition and the grand prize in the Art Festival Bass Strings International Competition in Campina, Romania. Both competitions were held virtually.

“I decided to participate in these two online competitions because I think it is a great opportunity to keep up with the practice during these crazy times,” said De la Cruz, a Doctor of Musical Arts major studying with Arizona State University's School of Music, Dance and Theatre Professor Catalin Rotaru. “It also gave me the chance to review some pieces I previously played and improve my playing.”

The Charleston International Music Competition offered multiple competitions in different competition categories. De la Cruz performed “Nine Variants on Paganini” by Frank Proto, accompanied by ASU alumna Rosa LoGiudice. The competition in Romania was open to all bass strings players from all ages and divided into six categories. As winner of the competition’s grand prize, De la Cruz will present a recital at the Geo Bogza House of Culture in Campina next year, if the current global health situation improves.  

“Even though the competition was virtual, Nathaniel did not prepare any differently than if he had attended in person,” said Rotaru. “Students still need to be well-prepared regardless of whether it’s an in-person or virtual competition.”

De la Cruz came to ASU in 2017 to study for his master’s degree with Rotaru after he was awarded a scholarship and a teaching assistantship position.

“I chose ASU mainly because of my teacher, Professor Catalin Rotaru,” said De la Cruz. “I enjoy the environment of our school quite a lot — the people, my friends and making music with such talented students.” 

His advice to students interested in competing is to “practice a lot, very smartly and efficiently.” De la Cruz said being attentive to details and fixing issues right away is important in addition to interpreting the music as sincerely as possible. 

“For any student interested in competing, my first advice is related to the level of preparedness,” said Rotaru. “I always tell my students they need to be overprepared. My second advice is connected to the first, because the overpreparedness will help boost self-esteem and confidence.”

De la Cruz has taken private lessons and master classes with world-class double bassists and has appeared in concerts with renowned conductors and soloists. He is currently a member of the West Valley Symphony Orchestra and the Arizona Broadway Theater and is the principal double bass of the ASU Symphony Orchestra. He also serves as the double bass instructor of Harmony Project Phoenix, a nonprofit organization that offers music education to children of all ages.

In 2019, De la Cruz was one of the finalists for the Diversity Fellowship offered by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and also participated in the Giovanni Bottesini International Double Bass Competition in Italy. In January 2020, he was awarded first place at the Coeur d’Alene Symphony Orchestra National Young Artists Competition.

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