Studies go beyond mastery

Music opens doors to learning

Jonathan Borja from Conservatory of Music and Dance on Vimeo.

An Internet quiz purports to match you to a certain composer. Jonathan Borja's responses to the questions likened him to famed Russian composer Igor Stravinsky. Listening to Borja talk about his time at the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance, the parallels are obvious and striking: like Stravinsky, Borja has a boundless desire to explore and learn – through music and all the arts.


A flutist, Borja applied and auditioned at four music schools; but, during his audition, Dr. Mary Posses, the UMKC Conservatory Associate Professor of Flute who became Borja's principal instructor, "identified what I needed to do to become a better musician," Borja said.

That convinced Borja to choose UMKC and the Conservatory. He completed the Master of Music in flute performance in 2005 and both the Master of Music in musicology and the Doctor of Musical Arts in flute performance in 2010.

"Five years and three degrees later..." Borja muses.

One reason for his tenure might be the sociable atmosphere at the Conservatory – where Borja fit right in. Posses found him as adept at making friends as he was in making music.

"Jonathan's rigorous dedication to developing himself as a musician is matched by his generous collegiality and great collaborative spirit," she said. "He approaches everything with a strong sense of purpose, unflagging energy, exemplary discipline, a highly developed frame of cultural reference, a welcome sense of humor, and, most importantly, deep and genuine integrity."

Youthful determination

Borja grew up in Mexico City and successfully auditioned for the Conservatorio Nacional de Música de México located there. Qualified students age 12 and older can attend this selective high school.

His fascination with the flute grew from his realization that it is "the closest thing to the human voice," Borja said. "You play with natural breathing and speaking patterns. It's our own way of singing."

Borja's mother had her doubts. She thought he would forego the flute and turn in a different direction. But his experiences at the Conservatorio quickened his desire to continue with music.

A lasting impression

Throughout his three degree programs, Borja impressed his instructors. William A. Everett, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Musicology and Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Curriculum, was one such teacher.

"Jonathan Borja is one of those exceptional individuals who pursues both breadth and depth, and he greatly enriched the Conservatory in his time here. It was a tremendously rewarding experience for me to advise his master's thesis on a film score by a Mexican composer. The ways he integrated his performance background with his scholarly acumen were truly impressive."

UMKC experience

"The music does not travel alone, it travels with the life."

These words of Luis Herrera de la Fuente, another son of Mexico City and a famous conductor, pianist, violinist and composer, are some of Borja's favorites – and express something else he found at UMKC.

"The Conservatory offered me so many opportunities," Borja said. "And the people. Conservatory students are so talented, and they are also just great people. We have great times together – both inside the concert hall and outside on our own."

For Borja, that added another dimension to the experience of performing.

Ongoing opportunities

"At one point during my studies at UMKC, I played in five ensembles, and we played about 45 concerts in a year, just about what a professional musician would do."

Borja performed with Musica Nova, which he described as a great experience playing the works of world-class composers. He was a member of the Kansas City Flute Association and performed with different chamber groups - normally a cellist, pianist and Borja on flute.

Borja was invited to the 22nd Annual Interdisciplinary Nineteenth-Century Studies Conference held at UMKC in 2007. His presentation - about musical technology - came from his studies of how various materials, construction and techniques can yield different sounds from the flute. He also discussed how new mechanisms changed the 19th century flute into today’s instrument.

Perhaps this and other scholarly experiences got Borja interested in a possible teaching career after college; or maybe it was working with Posses, Everett and other Conservatory professors. Borja has sent out résumés and is looking for teaching positions at the university level.

Posted: November 8, 2010

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"Jonathan's rigorous dedication to developing himself as a musician is matched by his generous collegiality and great collaborative spirit."

Dr. Mary Posses
UMKC Conservatory Associate Professor of Flute