Leonardo Vásquez Chacón

Viola

Hometown: Lima, Peru

Alma maters: Pontifical Catholic University of Peru; Indiana University Jacobs School of Music

Photos by Matt Dine

Profile

Awards/Competitions: Winner, 2017 Jacobs School of Music String Quartet Seminar in the Music and Arts University of the City of Vienna; Winner, 2011 National Symphony of Peru Young Soloists Competition

Appearances: MúsicaOcupa Music Festival, Ecuador, 2017–18; Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra, Indiana, 2016–18; Owensboro Symphony Orchestra, Kentucky, 2016–18; Tanglewood Music Center, 2016–17; Traveling Notes Music Festival, Belgium, 2010

What is your earliest memory of classical music? My parents would buy me these mass-produced “best classical music hits” CDs in the early ’90s that had all the popular ones like The Four Seasons, Beethoven’s 5th, Nessun dorma, etc. and that is probably where everything started.

When did you realize you wanted to pursue music as a career? When I was in the middle of my first year of medical school and realized that reading about biology and anatomy all day instead of harmony and music history was not fun. I quit at the beginning of my second year as I started taking music much more seriously.

What inspired you to audition for TŌN? A studio mate of mine left Indiana to work with TŌN. What inspired me was his description of TŌN and the program’s search for a modern and relevant form of classical music.

Which composer or genre of music do you feel you connect with the most? Beethoven is probably the human being that I admire the most. His morals and ethics continue to strike me the more I learn about him.

What is your favorite piece of music, and why do you love it? It’s extremely hard to pick one, but as of now it would probably be between Beethoven’s Eroica, Brahms’ 4th Symphony, or Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler Symphony. Telling you why is more than hard—it’s impossible—because it is probably related to my own ideals and life events.

What has been your favorite experience as a musician? I treasure a very special performance and recording of Beethoven’s Eroica in Tanglewood. Somehow the whole trajectory of the work, the fact that it was my first performance of the piece, and the great performers around me made it something I will never forget.

Do you have any embarrassing performance stories? I can tell you that during my last recital at Indiana University (which was special because I knew that would be my last year there) in April of 2018 I forgot my concert pants at home and didn’t notice until I finally went to change my clothes 15 minutes before the recital. Luckily, a very special person was able to go to my apartment, get my pants, and come back to school just in time to save my life.

What is some advice you would give to your younger self? The world is always bigger than we think, while our problems, on the contrary, are always smaller than we think.

Favorite non-classical musician or band: Luis Alberto Spinetta, an Argentine singer, guitarist, composer, and poet regarded as one of the founders of Argentine rock

If you could play another instrument, what would it be? Clarinet or electric bass

If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing? I would probably be a doctor or doing something in the fields of evolutionary biology and taxonomy.

What is your favorite place you’ve traveled to and why? Either the beaches in Florida or the Amazon rainforest in Peru. Flora and fauna, oceans and rivers are all great things.

Tell us something about yourself that might surprise us: I was a competitive swimmer in high school.

Piece of advice for a young classical musician: Can I quote someone else on this one? I just really like this quote that I recently found by Vladimir Horowitz that can be applied to all instruments, I think: “Piano playing consists of common sense, heart, and technical resources. All three should be equally developed. Without common sense you are a fiasco, without technique an amateur, without heart a machine. The profession does have its hazards.”