May 23, 2018

MSM Graduate José Maldonado (MM ’18): “Reach the Unreachable Stars”

Recent Manhattan School of Music graduate José Maldonado (MM ’18) shares his inspiring speech from the 2018 Commencement ceremony at The Riverside Church on May 11, 2018 — and his thoughts about his time at MSM.

“I am so proud to now be an alumnus of Manhattan School of Music. These two years have been full of learning and fun! My favorite memories have to be performing in the operas, my graduate recital and graduation itself,” says José. “The energy the MSM community has is amazing and being in this environment was simply electrifying!

José is currently preparing for the role of Falstaff taking place with the Martina Arroyo program in July, and excited to begin his two-year contract with Opera Omaha this August as a Holland Opera Fellow!

Josés inspiring speech:

“Ladies and Gentlemen, buongiorno, bonjour, nǐ hǎo ma, an nyeong ha se yo, privyet, namaste, ciao, tschüss, konnichiwa, kalimera, buenas tardes, good afternoon…

My name is José Luis Maldonado, and it is my honor to stand before you today in celebration of our achievements and success. Thank you for this great honor. It has been a great joy getting to know you all. Manhattan School of Music has not only been an excellent training facility for our musical craft, but an institution that strives to build and embrace a loving, respectful, and inclusive community, embracing our differences as we celebrate our commonalities. I love that about MSM. I noticed this the first day of school when I saw President Gandre greeting students, faculty, and staff alike. Thank you for being an example of excellence and goodness to us all.

We have reached this day…graduation…commencement…a milestone that propels us into the next chapter of our lives. Here we are, thinking about our next step.

Always remember that what we do as musicians and artists lead us and guide us in our lives. Some of us will continue to perform or teach music. Others may go into administration, business, photography, pottery…it does not matter…as long as you do your job like you’ve embraced your craft.

All the skills we learn to utilize as musicians are skills we can utilize in different careers and aspects of life…problem solving, improvisation, counting, thinking ahead, planning, discipline, wins, losses, drive, motivation, resiliency, and much more.

In a world with such uncertainty, I urge you to believe in yourself. Think of what you achieved just to get to this day…the blood, the sweat, the tears…the friendships and fallouts you’ve had…the all-nighters writing papers or practicing to prepare for the test, the competition, the concert, and the audition. Through thick and thin you achieved it. You are here…graduating! So, bravi tutti.

Now what’s next? How do we approach the next step of our lives? Some of you will go into further education, others into a profession; others will take off a year or two.

As you delve into the next chapter of your lives, I would recommend a couple of things.


We learn and grow every day. Take time to reflect often. Find your purpose. Why are you the artist that you are? Why do you sing? Why do you play? Have a why… and it may change over the years, and that’s okay, but always have a purpose. Build yourself up so that you’re always the best version of yourself and embrace your accomplishments. We are always improving, but I also encourage you to be proud of yourself. Love yourself. It’s an everyday endeavor…just like gratitude. Reflect on your blessings and your opportunities. Every breath you take is a reminder that you’re alive, so take advantage of every breath.

Be responsible:

Consider the word responsibility. You have the power to make choices. Responsibility is a choice. It’s the ability to respond to the events that happen in your life. We don’t have total control of what happens to us, but we choose how we will respond to what life presents us. This is how we build character. So respond wisely, because at the end of the day the results we have are our results. Not anyone else’s. So respond to all your opportunities. After all, that’s how you got here.

Be resilient:

According to Siri, (she’ll actually tell you), resiliency is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties…toughness.

Not everything will go as planned. My first major was business, and I was playing Latin jazz saxophone at Cal Poly Pomona after being band president, football player and in student government in high school. In fact, I wasn’t in my first choir until I was 21. I used to say I loved all music, EXCEPT opera and country….Now I say I love all music ESPECIALLY opera and country. When the economy was hit in the recession in 2007 and 2008, a lot of my plan was shaken, rerouted. I was resilient. I went to community college so I could continue education at an affordable cost…all the while enduring stress in the family due to economic problems. However, this big burden is what led me to singing; it’s what led me to opera. And as you know, the more resilient you are as a musician, the more you learn, the better you get, and the more skill you have moving forward.

Reach out:

Remember who has been in your journey…who lifted you up when you were down…who supported you in good times and bad. If there is one thing that is evident here at MSM, it’s that we have all built a support team. So as you spring into your future, remember to honor those who have guided you and to know that MSM is a resource that wants you to succeed. Keep your friends close and your mentors closer.

Ladies and Gentlemen, no matter what happens in life, you’re winners.

Let us go out and reach new heights, achieve the unachievable and inconceivable. Robert Browning says, ‘Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?’ Class of 2018, the sky is the limit, the stars are there for us, and the world will be better for this, that we strove with our last ounce of courage, to reach the unreachable stars.

I wish you the best always, and together, let’s go make a difference in the world. Congratulations, class of 2018, we did it!”

Watch José perform in MSM Opera Theatre's production of The Gypsy Baron

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