Reaching for the stars

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Already an accomplished violinist, coming off a successful tour of Europe, 22-year-old Adrianna Mateo is a textbook “Type A” personality whose idea of relaxation is doing the laundry and grocery shopping.

“I just can’t seem to shut off my brain at night,” says Mateo, who currently studies music at the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College.

Mateo is a solo, chamber, and orchestral performer who has played many venerable locations, including Carnegie Hall, the Times Center, Steinway Hall, the Jewish Museum, the CUNY New Music Festival and historic locations in Italy and France.

Growing up in Flushing and attending Townsend Harris High School, Mateo recalls that her parents were responsible for getting her interested in music. “At home we’d listen to the Beatles and Brahms in equal measure,” she says.

Mateo says that her affinity for music may have been forged early on, when she first watched the Disney movie “The Little Mermaid.” Impressed with the movie’s soundtrack, she says she tried to mimic songs from the movie in a quiet part of her childhood home.

“I think that’s when I first fell in love with music; feeling that sensation of warmth welling up in my chest, realizing I could create something beautiful and powerful even if I was just a child,” Mateo says.

And her love of music would eventually zero-in on a particular instrument: the violin.

“I think I gravitated towards [the violin] not only because of its versatility — you can play almost any style of music and with such a wide variety of tone color — but moreover because of the violin’s ability to sing. I’ve always been a melody person,” Mateo says.

As for current projects, Mateo credits a highly supportive group of friends for helping to make her NUE/LUSH project possible. “I’ve been working with 15 composers to develop a new music repertoire that revolves around the violin in various instrument­ations,” she says.

She explains that the name NUE is a play on the word for “new” and also “nude,” which reflects the pared-down resonance of the pieces for solo violin, while LUSH refers to the richness and power of the pieces for violin, piano, and (on some pieces) electronics.

“One (composer) even has me using distortion and loop pedals in a cool jazz/rock/­experimental fusion.”

While on tour in France and Italy this past summer, Mateo says she played several solo concerts with this newly developed repertoire and she plans an upcoming concert in November at Vaudeville Park in Brooklyn. She also says that a sneak preview of the project will be held in Sunnyside later this month, at Bliss on Bliss Art Projects.

In addition to her key musical influences, including Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey and Celine Dion for their “agility, and raw, emotional power,” Mateo says that her mother’s singing was perhaps among the most important.

“At night, while putting me to sleep, she’d sometimes sing to me, which I suppose is not very remarkable or unique in itself… but the quality of her singing is what affected me the most,” she recalls. “It was kind of under her breath, plain and unaffected, sotto voce, just singing to me, as if nothing else existed except for this moment between mother and daughter.”

Mateo adds, “When my mother sings, it’s the most sincere, spontaneous, beautiful thing in the world.”

But while Mateo’s family may have provided the inspiration for a career in music, that didn’t necessarily mean they were thrilled with the idea.

“My parents haven’t always been completely supportive of my music, which is understand­able… I come from a medical family, and to put it bluntly, the success rate of musicians in the real world vs. that of nurses or physicians is a little dismal,” she relates.

She adds that while her parents have always wanted her to succeed, they thought that music was a risky choice given her aptitude for other more financially rewarding subjects at school.

“But now that they’ve seen me making huge strides professionally and creatively, they’re incredibly excited for me and very supportive.”

Asked about her favorite places to play, Mateo says she prefers smaller, more intimate settings that allow her to truly experience the audience reacting to her music. But, she says, “playing in the Chappelle de la Trinité at the Fontainebleau Castle (in France) this summer was amazing not only because of its history (Louis the XV was married there), but also because the acoustic is so resonant and rich. It’s like you’re in heaven, playing in that space.”

A bit closer to home, Mateo says that one local treasure is LeFrak Hall at Queens College. “I grew up using that hall and often still use it for recordings — as do groups such as the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and the Emerson String Quartet. To me, [LeFrak] is home.”

Looking ahead, Mateo says she’s prepared to roll with the punches. But she also admits to having a few goals.

“I want to continue pursuing new music across genres, to study music in Paris for at least a year and maybe take a few classes at Oxford while I’m at it, to tour, record movie soundtracks and albums or whatever the format has changed to by that point and branch into different creative ventures within and outside of music.”

For more information on Adriana Mateo, including upcoming performances, visit:

Posted 5:27 pm, September 26, 2012
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Reader feedback

Leonora Manalo from Baltimore, Maryland says:
I am so excited & very proud reading your columm, what you have accomplished. Your Mom and Dad must be very proud right now. Look at how you've grown and very professional in every way especially in music you're so talented. We love to come see you on your next upcomming performance. Let me call your Mom, I did'nt know she has a lovely voice!!!
Sept. 27, 2012, 2:32 pm

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