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Angelica Pereira: My Artistic Voice
Local & National News | October 20, 2020
Mom says she sang to me constantly before I was born. Little did she know that music would become the center of my life, impacting my upbringing, allowing me to travel the world, and ultimately, shaping who I am and who I want to be.

I always loved music. There was always music at home. Being a kid, you would always see me singing and dancing everywhere (that still happens). Mom says she sang to me constantly before I was born. Little did she know that music would become the center of my life, impacting my upbringing, allowing me to travel the world, and ultimately, shaping who I am and who I want to be.

My story begins in Cartagena (Colombia) where I was born 31 years ago. Mom and Dad did not get along and got a divorce when I was 1 year old. So, Mom became my entire world, and I hers. We moved to Bogota. Her unconditional dedication to helping me reach the best of my potential is the reason I am the happy, self-sufficient, professional individual writing this article today. She always wanted to play the guitar but never got herself around it, so she decided she was going to live vicariously through me. She took me to my first music lesson at the age of 4 where I started learning the piano, and at 7 I transitioned to the violin, falling completely in love with the instrument. I remember being 12 or so and saying: “I will be a professional violinist someday”. Long story short, the violin became my life companion and a way to define who I was at a very young age. It provided me with identity, teaching me responsibility, resilience, discipline, and the inner need to always do my very best in every endeavor. My childhood was split between school and the conservatory of music where I took violin lessons, music theory/history classes, and attended orchestra rehearsals. At home, I organized my time between homework, practicing my violin as much as possible, helping my mom taking care of the house, and enjoying different activities such as riding my bike, roller skating, watching cartoons, climbing trees, and reading.

The notion of being successful and accomplished was always connected to my musical achievements, whether it was a performance, an award, or a scholarship. All of my studies were paid in full by scholarships. “What a blessing!” my mom always says. It was actually a scholarship offer that opened the doors of the “American Dream” for me. Back in 2008, Oklahoma City University accepted me for a Bachelors's in Violin Performance. With only a suitcase and my violin, I dove into a whole new universe; and I say universe because to my very young and naïve eyes this new country was overwhelmingly enormous in every way. I was now alone, learning a new language, and starting a new life where it only depended on me to make the right choices to survive, and beyond that, to make the most out of this wonderful opportunity given to me.  From my very arrival, I experienced firsthand two things: the inherent challenges of life, and the power of kindness and compassion. I will spare you all the (now) amusing details of that August 18th of 2008. A story for another time. But I will tell you this much: my flight was delayed, the person that was supposed to pick me up at the airport did not show, and a family that saw me alone and troubled helped me get to the University; total strangers that I had no other option but to trust. Angels!

My career rapidly started surging. Looking back, it seems as if every short-term goal I worked towards achieving (learning English, getting good grades, winning competitions/awards/auditions) was being accomplished. A life-changing accomplishment was my first audition to the Oklahoma City Philharmonic in 2009, being a sophomore in college. Definitely, a decisive and shaping point, as it allowed me to work alongside brilliant professional musicians, and feeling constantly inspired to be better. Time went by. I finished my undergrad studies, continued with a Master’s degree in music performance as well, and in the middle of this degree, the most wonderful education project surged in 2013. El Sistema Oklahoma showed me what it felt like to live focusing your knowledge and passion towards serving others; how your personal success and happiness is directly proportional to how you can contribute to the success and happiness of others. Thanks to ESO and the most incredible mentors who built this program, I can say with utmost certainty that there is nothing more rewarding in life than the selfless act of teaching. For this reason, I decided to get an education degree and be a certified teacher for the State of Oklahoma.

Fast forward to 2020. At this point, I have three degrees, traveled to Mexico, China, and all countries in Central America from Panama to Belize with the Orchestra of the Americas, recorded a Latin-Grammy award-winning album (2015) with them, was named ‘Most Outstanding Music Artist’ by the Hispanic Arts Council and the State of Oklahoma (2016), won NextGen Under 30 (2017), bought a home, and had two dream jobs in wonderful organizations. Additionally, I have had the privilege to witness the creation of two unique non-profit organizations in the City and State: the Oklahoma Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra and the Oklahoma Modern Music Collective. I serve as Principal Second Violinist and Concertmaster, respectively. 

Well… next up in the list of goals to achieve: to become a permanent resident of the USA! Remember when I mentioned above my experience arriving in this country, and feeling “the inherent challenges of life, and the power of kindness and compassion”? That dyad is precisely what the past seven weeks have been to me. 

Introduction and Tarantelle - Pablo Sarasate, by Angelica Pereira

Oklahoma City University. April 09/2010 - Junior Recital - Marcin Parys, Piano

Applying for permanent residency is not an easy endeavor as perhaps some may think. If you are not marrying an American citizen, have a family member or a full-time employer to petition for you, or have a million dollars, then the option is to be “extraordinary” in your field. Under legal advice, I pursued this option. But wait! Not too fast: 1. You have to be willing to immerse yourself in a psychological game of knowing that no matter what you do, there is no guarantee of the outcome. 2. You need to spend hours and hours compiling extensive amounts of evidence to prove your extraordinary ability, and 3. You have to be able to pay for the filling and legal fees, that are extremely expensive! Anyone that lives paycheck to paycheck does not have $10,000 laying around. I was fortunate to be approved for a personal loan to cover the costs. I remember the feeling of getting out of the bank with the cashier's check. How wonderful. I was ready! And then Mr. Covid-19 decided to add up to my already stressful recipe. My work visa was expiring in August. I filed the permanent residency petition in February. The plan was to file with expedite processing, which got suspended for months due to the pandemic. My case sat there. No response. When expedite processing was reinstated, things started to move quickly. I got an RFE (request for evidence). More stress and what-ifs, more paperwork, phone calls, emails. After the additional evidence was submitted, countless hours of work, all the money, sleepless nights and build up anxiety, I was unexpectedly denied. The legal advice given to me was to leave the country immediately. So now what? Do I give up on 12 years of building my entire adult and professional life? How long until I can come back? What can be done to come back? What happens with my house, my dogs, my students, my jobs? What a way for life to challenge me!

So, I booked a flight, canceled my health insurance, lined up ways to keep paying for my mortgage/bills while overseas, said goodbye to many dear ones, and prepared psychologically to not be in my home for an uncertain amount of time.

"La Piragua" with El Sistema Oklahoma

Playing music from my native country with my dear students Dr. Michael Raiber - conductor/arranger Special thanks to the amazing Andres Montero for providing his symphonic arrangement of "La Piragua". His contribution was fundamental for this collaboration to succeed!

Heartbroken!

From the second I shared the news with my family, employers and closest friends, the power of kindness and compassion took over the despair I was immersed in. I can only describe the events that started happening since then as miracles! Three flights canceled/modified due to Covid-19 related traveling restrictions, outpouring support on a GoFundMe and a Change.org petition both set up by my friends, media interested in my story, Mayor David Holt and Congresswoman Kendra Horn reaching out to me and countless messages, emails, texts and phone calls from the kindest of people (known and unknown to me) expressing their support to my situation and my story. Thanks to all of those efforts I am still waking up every day in my home. I am now able to stay for three more years as my emergency O-1 (Artist visa) was approved. This allows me to get back to teaching at El Sistema and playing for the OKC Philharmonic, as well as working towards resubmitting evidence after Congresswoman Horn was able to officially reopen my permanent residency case after its denial. I get another chance. Talk about miracles. How extremely powerful! This is the kind of power that did not allow me to victimize myself, not even for a second. The power that turned a grim situation into the brightest of horizons. The power that inspires and leads to positive change. 

Hope is my personal fuel these days. Hope in the future. Hope for everything to work out so I can remain in Oklahoma City for as many years as possible, serving and giving back to the City and the community that has allowed me to grow as a person and as a professional. Hope to raise awareness about an immigration system that is certainly not perfect. Hope to support the creativity of the new generations. Hope to be a constant advocate for music and art organizations. Hope to live in a world that knows that no matter the challenges, kindness, and compassion ALWAYS wins the day!

Colombia Linda co - Pasillo

Feliz Día de la Independecia Colombiana- Happy Colombian Independence Day! I wanted to celebrate this day with music, of course. I was not sure what to play exactly, but I organized all my music books during quarantine, and I remembered finding a handwritten book that was given to me as a special gift back in 2015. This book has arrangements of Colombian pieces for two violins. As I started going through them, this one in particular did not have a title or a composer, but it was the prettiest one to me, so I chose it for the occasion regardless. It took me a while and a lot of help from my mom and dear friends in Colombia, to find out the name of this piece. To my very pleasant surprise, the name is “Colombia the beautiful (or the pretty one)” (how appropriate). I was told the composer is René Valdez. Also, this is my first attempt at editing/multi tracking anything ever, but here it is. I added the audio of a bass line with the Pasillo rhythm to fill in the texture a bit more, additional to the two violin voices that you see side by side. Hope you all enjoy!

Angelica Pereira: In Pictures

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