Young cellist joins LAUP and HSO to help students write their stories

When Adalus Low-Manzini comes to Holland this weekend to perform with the Holland Symphony Orchestra, she also will collaborate in a writing program with Latin Americans United for Progress. 

The 22-year-old Venezuelan cellist will be performing a solo in concert on Oct. 15 at 7:30 p.m. at the Concert Hall at the Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts,

In addition, Low-Manzini will take part in a writing project sponsored by the HSO and LAUP to help middle and high school students tell their stories. Low-Manzini will talk to the students about her story of leaving her family in Venezuela at 17 to pursue her musical education in the U.S. Because of the political turmoil in the South American country, she hasn’t seen her family in five years. 

Learning to tell her story of immigration and passion for music has been key to applying to colleges, scholarships and other opportunities.

Adalus Low-Manzin

I'm very excited to connect with the students about music and writing,” says Low-Manzini, who is working on her master’s degree in cello performance at the University of Michigan. “Writing about your story allows us to know it better. When you put it down in your words, you realize things that you don't say out loud.”

HSO also is providing free tickets to the students in LAUP’s middle and high school enrichment programs to see Low-Manzini perform Saturday. 

Showing students another option

The writing program is led by Baruch de Carvalho, LAUP’s communication and development coordinator, who is a graduate of the University of Iowa’s prestigious non-fiction writing program.

He thinks the collaboration will also open students’ eyes to careers in music.

“Classical music is not always something that the Latino community thinks is for them,” says de Carvalho. “We have students who enjoy playing instruments and are very involved in their respective music programs at their schools, but may not see it as something that they can actually do professionally. It’s important for them to see that it is a possibility that you can play an instrument professionally and can pursue your dream of doing that. 

“On the writing side, we will be teaching them how to write effectively to pursue those dreams and apply for scholarships and college. Our mission is to empower Latinos.”

Like Low-Manzini, many of the Adelante students are immigrants or children of immigrants. 

Local connection

Low-Manzini’s invitation to perform with the symphony came through a friendship she made with Maddie Dykhouse, granddaughter of Kay Walvoord, CEO and president of HSO. Dykhouse and Low-Manzin met while studying cello at Louisiana State University as undergraduate students. A full scholarship from LSU brought Low-Manzini to the U.S. She later was awarded the Sphinx Organization Scholarship, which is given to one Black or Latinx student every year to pursue a master’s degree in classical music studies at U-M.

When Dykhouse heard HSO was looking for a Latinx musician for a concert during Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15-Oct. 15), she recommended her friend.

Low-Manzini asked if she could perform a work of a Latinx composer. “I wanted to be able to bring to the table something that was written by a Latin American composer because my interest in performing and advocating for music written closer to where I'm from has grown over the years,” she said.

She will perform Concertino for Cello and String Orchestra, by Argentine composer Esteban Benzecry.

The concert will be directed by guest conductor Taras Krysa, director of orchestras at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, who also is the music director of the Lviv (Ukraine) Philharmonic Orchestra. A native of Ukraine, Krysa also has experienced the struggles that come from having loved ones in a country in turmoil. Ukraine has been under siege since Russia invaded last year. 

Work makes Michigan debut

HSO’s third concert of the season also will mark the Michigan premiere of a new work by Jennifer Higdon. It was commissioned by small-budget orchestras across the U.S., including the Holland Symphony. The work is called “Cold Mountain Suite,” which comes from an opera of the same name which garnered two Grammy nominations and won the International Opera Award for best new opera. The opera highlights the throes of love, war, and the journey of a soldier making his way back home to Cold Mountain.

The third and final piece on the program will be Symphonie Fantastique, op. 14, by 
Hector Berlioz.

Low-Manzini says she hopes to share her HSO performance through a video. She hasn’t been able to reunite with her parents and siblings because Venezuela hasn’t renewed passports until recently. She can return home, but she wouldn’t be able to leave the country. The U.S. has given her a five-year extension on her passport. 

“There's not a day that I don't talk to them,” she says. “My mom is the first person that texts me every morning, so it’s been nice that we do have that access, but it's not the same as a hug, is it?” 

Tickets for the concert are $25, and $5 for students. They can be bought online or at the door.
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.