Doctoral music graduate's generosity of spirit benefits future musicians

December 10, 2021

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2021 graduates.

International student Ramon “Chino” Alfonso Soberano, who graduates this fall with a Doctor of Musical Arts in violin performance, wants all musicians to be able to achieve their goals. Ramon "Chino" Alfonso Soberano Download Full Image

Last summer in his home country of the Philippines, Soberano taught free virtual masterclasses and lectures to future generations of violinists. The virtual classes were co-taught at three institutions that were instrumental to his development as a musician — the Philippine Research for Developing Individual Soloists (PREDIS), School of Music at St. Scholastica’s College and the University of the Philippines College of Music.

At ASU, Soberano served as co-president for the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Student Committee in the School of Music, Dance and Theatre from fall 2018 through spring 2021.

“As a founding member of IDEA, the thoughtful conversations with student members and faculty, cross-disciplinary collaborations and advocacy work have taught me to serve as a compassionate and effective leader,” Soberano said. 

Soberano said his involvement with IDEA made him realize that the field of music, as other fields, has issues of equity, inclusion and diversity that disproportionately affect some people more than others.

“We should continue to strive in addressing these issues through continuous conversations with open ears, minds and hearts so that everyone has the equal opportunity to achieve their goals as a musician,” Soberano said.

Soberano was a member of the Herberger String Quartet and the ASU Symphony Orchestra. He has performed as a soloist, chamber musician and orchestral musician in Arizona and Illinois, and with the University of the Philippines College Orchestra, the Manila Symphony Orchestra and the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra.

He has taught for ASU’s String Project and community outreach music programs at the Manchester Music Festival and Taconic Music, Inc. in Vermont.

In his most recent lecture recital associated with his doctoral research, “The Contemporary Filipino Violin: An In-Depth Study and Performance Guide of Ramon Santos’ ‘Tanaw II’ (1984) and Conrado del Rosario’s ‘Darangun’ for Solo Violin (1985),” Soberano received high praises from both composers.

Santos said, “Thank you for playing my piece so superbly and so intelligently. I would say that this is the best interpretation of the piece.” And del Rosario said Soberano gave an “excellent performance of my composition ‘Darangun’ for solo violin.”

“Chino was a wonderful teaching assistant for my studio from 2017–19,” said Danwen Jiang, professor of violin in the School of Music, Dance and Theatre. “He is a wonderful colleague, an excellent role model to his peers and a valuable asset to our school and community at large.”

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: It was during a visit to my relatives in Jacksonville, Florida, when I was around 7 years old. My grandaunts knew how to play piano and taught simple tunes to me on the piano. I had so much fun that I asked my parents if I could learn piano when we got back home in the Philippines. Our house did not have much space for even an upright piano, so my mom suggested the violin since it is smaller.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: The most important aspect was the teacher. I chose ASU because of how excellent Professor Danwen Jiang, my violin professor, was as a mentor and pedagogue. Her expertise and guidance have helped me further discover my potential as a professional musician. In addition, ASU values creativity and interdisciplinary collaborations, and I value these concepts as well. I firmly believe that to be a 21st century musician one has to be versatile and open to new discoveries.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Professor Danwen Jiang, my violin teacher, taught me an important music and non-music related lesson. The most memorable piece of advice she gave me was that being great at performing your instrument is not the only ingredient in becoming a professional musician. One has to be well-rounded and also learn other non-music performance skills such as effective teaching, networking and marketing. Being a kind, fair and respectful musician are desirable qualities that open more doors of opportunity. 

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Do not lose sight of what is happening inside and outside of yourself. Inside, be mindful of your health and wellness. Health is more important than squeezing one more hour of practice time at the expense of eating a healthy meal and/or getting a good night's sleep. Abusing your body can have consequences later on in life. Outside, do not be out of touch with issues happening in our world today such as climate change, racial/gender discrimination, poverty, etc. that are affecting us all. In these difficult times, we should be more compassionate to each other and advocate for people who are directly affected by these issues.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life? 

A: The “secret garden” in the courtyard at the Herberger Institute office. When school gets busy and crowded, this is a little oasis of quiet and serenity. I would sometimes eat my lunch in that courtyard just to unwind from the busyness of school.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: Aside from searching for jobs, I am excited about taking on personal projects, including discovering and performing new and/or underperformed repertoire, finishing my website and continuing to give masterclasses and lectures at various music institutions, including the Philippines. 

Q: Did you receive any scholarships while at ASU, and if so, which ones? What did it mean to you to be able to receive this funding?

A: I received the Special Talent Award Scholarship, the Katherine K. Herberger Scholarship and (was) a teaching assistant. It was such an honor to receive these awards, and I am forever grateful to the donors, faculty and administration for helping me financially during my doctoral studies. Receiving these awards from such a distinguished institution helped me realize that I have potential in growing to be a better musician.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would like to address global food insecurity and hunger. So much of our waking lives is dependent on what and how much food we eat, even impacting our mental health and decision-making. I believe if the general population has easier access to healthy and natural food resources, the world can be a little bit better.

Lynne MacDonald

communications specialist, School of Music


Communication graduate imagines future connecting urban communities, tribal reservations

December 10, 2021

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2021 graduates.

Being a person who contributes to positive change in the world is important to ASU graduate Kaitlyn Begay. ASU College of Integrative Sciences and Arts communication graduate Kaitlyn Begay Kaitlyn Begay, an outstanding communication graduate in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, took advantage of many opportunities to make positive change at ASU and in the world, with ASU American Indian-associated organizations and events, and interning with the Women's Coalition. Download Full Image

“I chose ASU because the community of students do an outstanding job of making their voices matter,” Begay said. “During my time here at ASU, I was able to interact with and meet individuals with hopeful futures to make positive change for the campus or even for the world. You don’t know who you will meet here on campus! There are many great minds in one place; it even inspires you. 

“My oldest sister also set the bar high for ASU and the great education it provides,” she added. “She is doing what she enjoys today thanks to the ASU community/university.

“I see myself creating bond-ship and cooperativeness between metropolitan cites or towns and tribal reservations,” said Begay, whose hometown is Gilbert, Arizona, and who is also a member of the Navajo Nation.

With that goal in mind, she decided that a communication major in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts was a good fit and completed a minor in media analysis as well. 

Begay said her participation in ASU American Indian-associated organizations and events stand out as highlights of her undergraduate journey, especially her work in the pre-college INSPIRE program.

“I was a mentor to high school students in the week-long summer camp INSPIRE, where a group of others and I were able to do workshops and activities with students,” she said.

“This experience was unforgettable yet rewarding. I met many prestigious students who have bright futures in mind,” said Begay, who during her time at ASU held the Navajo Nation Scholarship and the Chief Manuelito Scholarship, awarded to Navajo high school seniors for high academic achievement.   

In the classroom, she credits communication instructor Steven Garry for teaching her an important lesson.  

“Professor Garry really changed my mindset on looking at communication,” she said. “Though my class consisted of only four others, he made an impact on our ways of presenting, learning and communicating. He taught us that getting the core information behind individuals' opinions and observations can be a tough task, but taking the time to do that goes a long way. In short, we have to experience the things we often do not want to do in order to get great results.”

Read more from Kaitlyn Begay about her ASU experience in the Q&A below:

Question: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

Answer: Something that changed my perspective was, surprisingly, the ASU 101 course. Though it’s a university requirement, I got myself to engage more in self-care and patience. This was important at that moment, especially when I was taking 19 credit-hours of classes and maintaining a part-time job at the same time. The weekly journaling is what really got me to release my personal experiences and reserved feelings. As cliché as it may sound, it changed me for the better.

Q: Did you do an internship while at ASU?

A: Yes, I participated in a semester-long internship with the Women’s Coalition on campus. The women I met in the organization are so well-spoken and devoted to advocating for women’s rights and empowerment here at ASU. The internship taught me how to stay on task and up to date on women’s issues and news on campus. I am so grateful for this opportunity provided by the e-board and the many individuals who I got the chance to hear speak.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Do not ease up or give into a negative action, like failing a test, stress, a bad day, etc. It is an obstacle that moves you toward greater goals. 

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?  

A: My favorite spot on campus would have to be either Noble Library or the outdoor patio on top of the Student Services building on the Tempe campus. I went to Noble Library several times and found myself easily focused on school work. I love the quiet environment and (of course) the Starbucks that's accessible on the first level. However, if it were between Noble or Student Services building, I’d pick the Student Services building. I say this because it is probably one of the least crowded locations to be in and being outdoors makes it even better. This was my go-to location when I had a break in between classes.

Q; What are your plans after graduation?

A: I am going to be honest and say I am in no rush at all to make major plans or to be top dog — just yet — at any organization or company. At the moment, I like the job I currently have and if there is a great opportunity that comes, I’ll take it. For now, post-grad life will be taken slowly, at a pace where I know I am doing myself good and taking my time to experience job growth and knowledge. However, my long-term plans are to, hopefully, start an organization back on reservations that provide multiple services — such as therapy, group classes, women’s empowerment — for individuals. Another goal would have to be working with my hometown to advocate for a better future and quality of life for people.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: One problem I would tackle would have to be poverty. I have read articles and watched videos and documentaries on the rise of poverty levels in other countries and even our own. One of the hardest things to see is individuals struggling financially in order to keep a roof over their head or food on the table.

Maureen Roen

Director, Creative Services, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts