I am a conductor and Fulbright Alumna. As Fulbright grantee in 2004, I had the opportunity to study with renowned conductor Zubin Metha in Florence.
Ever since I was six years old I dreamt of coming to Italy to study and perform music. In 2001, I was given that opportunity when I was invited to the International Conducting Competition held in Florence. There is something truly magical about realizing one’s dreams. The final night of the competition, excited, nervous, emotional, and extremely inspired by the country, the people, and stimulating cultural interchange, I made a secret wish as I stepped onto the podium that regardless of the outcome, I had to return to this enchanting place and the first thing I would do when I return to the United States was to apply for a Fulbright.
I always knew that I had to one day be able to go to Italy on my musical journey. Perhaps it was listening to my great-grandfather play his music on our piano or my grandmother singing opera while she was preparing the holiday delights in the kitchen. One thing I am sure is that it was always deep desire inside my heart. Why Fulbright? The Fulbright Scholarship is a pillar for young, aspiring musicians. In all of the 75 years of the Fulbright program there have been only two that have received a Fulbright for conducting, the late and dear Maestro Lorin Maazel and me. It is the Fulbright program’s commitment to excellence and its continuing endeavor to endow young brilliant minds with the tools to become ambassadors and leaders for a better tomorrow that makes it so successful and attractive.
All that I am currently privileged to do as a musician, conductor and leader is due in great part to Fulbright and the opportunities afforded to me! Always knowing what you would like to do from an early age, does not always translate into what we do as human beings and for our way of living. Originally, I was both encouraged for my talent and drive and then I found myself being criticized for the same. Fulbright gave me the chance to realize my lifelong dream of coming to make music in Italy but it did so much more. Not only did I discover that there was a historical context of prolific woman composers who were conducting their own works, I discovered that cultural exchange could open the mind in varying contexts and this creates opportunities by the mere act of sharing ideas and passions. I am very fortunate and grateful for what I do everyday.
My gratitude is first and foremost because of Fulbright and second of all because of some very special illuminated people that I have met along the way. And ever more so, Fulbright continues to be an integral part of my life and for example the Fulbright Commission in Italy has always been by my side with encouragement and support.
Every chance I can, I say to young students and scholars that each of us have something beautiful and unique to contribute. Fulbright was an illuminated man and he chose the path of intellectual curiosity and innovation as the way to opening minds through sharing and exchanging passions. Our ability to expand , discover, seek and find helps us connect with equally talented people all over the world. Each and every young scholar must find their individual voice and sing it as loud as they possibly can. Only once we are able to hear you, may we we all join in harmony.
Debra Cheverino – Fulbright to Italy 2004