Pablo Suaste Cherizola

When Pablo Suaste Cherizola left Mexico to study piano at Roosevelt University in 2014, he never envisioned becoming one of the university’s leading instrumentalists, or recording his first CD by age 23.

When Pablo Suaste Cherizola left Mexico to study piano at Roosevelt University in 2014, he never envisioned becoming one of the university’s leading instrumentalists, or recording his first CD by age 23.

The inaugural winner of Roosevelt’s new Aeolian Classics Emerging Artist Award, Suaste Cherizola exceeded his own expectations recently when he entered — and won — his first contest in the U.S., which has earned him the right to give recitals this spring all over Chicagoland and to record his own CD.

Performing a grueling program of classical music by Franz Schubert, Franz Liszt, Ludwig van Beethoven and many others, Suaste Cherizola won top honors in a January contest that matched him against eight other Roosevelt student instrumentalists enrolled in the Music Conservatory at Roosevelt’s Chicago College of Performing Arts (CCPA).

“We are proud to be one of the first music programs in the nation to offer our student musicians this unique opportunity to compete, perform widely and record,” said Henry Fogel, dean of CCPA, which is sponsoring the new project.

“It is a great opportunity for Pablo, who all of us at CCPA believe is ready as a soloist for the concert stage as well as for recording,” Fogel said.

The Aeolian Classics CD label and contest, which identifies and rewards artists whose performances deserve recording and dissemination based on merit rather than profit potential, is the brainchild of international concert pianist Adam Neiman, assistant professor of piano in Roosevelt’s CCPA.

“It’s becoming increasingly difficult to make and market classical CDS, and I wanted to be a part of the solution, so I created a label for artists who are truly deserving of recognition,” Neiman said.

Suaste Cherizola is only the third artist in the U.S. to record on the Neiman Aeolian Classics label.

“There’s a likability and elegance to Pablo’s playing that is rare to see in someone so young, and all of us felt he is ready,” said Neiman, reflecting on the Aeolian Classics competition judging process, which is composed of two rounds of competition and includes a final performance before a guest panel of jurors.

“He truly has the drive, ability and an inner fire for a concert career.”

The son of Jesus Suaste, one of Mexico’s most beloved opera singers, Suaste Cherizola initially wanted to be a singer, but took his father’s advice to learn piano first.

“My father told me ‘If you want to be a singer, you have to play piano.’ I just kept going with it until I forgot about singing altogether,” said Suaste Cherizola.

The winner of a 2015-16 FONCA award from the National Fund for Culture and the Arts in Mexico, Suaste Cherizola began playing piano at age 14 in Mexico.

His older brother, Luis Arturo Suaste, 26, also is a student pianist at Roosevelt and the 2016-17 winner of Mexico’s FONCA award.

“This was my brother’s first really big competition and I think it’s something he’s been ready for,” said Suaste, who was a semi-finalist in the recent Aeolian Classics competition. “He’s getting great guidance at Roosevelt, and every time he’s played recently, I’ve been surprised by the capacity and ease with which he performs.”

Both brothers credit Roosevelt piano professor Jorge Federico Osorio, a leading international concert pianist who is also from Mexico, with putting Pablo on track with a technique and focus that includes a minimum of six hours a day of piano practice.

“Pablo was born to be a performer. He’s got the personality it takes to be on stage, and I’ve been absolutely delighted by his progress,” said Osorio.

Suaste Cherizola is among approximately 35 students in Roosevelt’s Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance Program, whose student body is largely composed of international students from Mexico, China, South Korea and other countries.

“Pablo is gifted on piano. He has something to communicate and nothing gets in the way of that. He channels what he wants to come through in the sound and he gets the piano to do what he wants it to do,” said Winston Choi, head of piano at Roosevelt.

Roosevelt’s first Aeolian Classics emerging artist will give solo recitals on Feb. 21 in Roosevelt’s Ganz Hall, 430 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago and on March 17 at Darnton & Hersh Fine Violins, 11 E. Adams St., Chicago. During February, March and April, Suaste Cherizola also will be performing at venues throughout Chicagoland with two other Aeolian Classics finalists and the Yas Quartet, Roosevelt’s first student string quartet.

According to Neiman, Suaste Cherizola will begin recording for a solo CD for release by Aeolian Classics before year’s end. 

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