Engineering student spends time studying machines and making melodies

Engineering student spends time studying machines and making melodies

Engineering student spends time studying machines and making melodies
July 12
20:15 2017

Music plays throughout the mall, with the melodies filling the stores and food court. While some shoppers are sorting through clothes and others are window shopping, one mall attendee sits in the center of the mall, focused on the music instead of the storefronts.

About a year-and-a-half-ago, mechanical and energy engineering junior Alex Solorzano began performing as a regular pianist at the Golden Triangle Mall in Denton.

“I performed my first piano recital when I was nine years old,” Solorzano said. “And even though I was nervous, I did very well. I felt a beautiful feeling of accomplishment when my performance was met with a loud applause – I’ve been addicted ever since.”

Solorzano said he began playing piano simply out of jealousy of his older brother, after discovering he had started taking cello lessons.

“I wanted to learn how to play an instrument too,” Solorzano said. “[My mother] asked me what instrument I wanted to play, and I told her piano. When I had my first lesson, I loved it.”

Solorzano has been performing piano recitals since he was young. Some of his first gigs involved performing at weddings.

“I was 13 when I went to perform in Colorado,” Solorzano said. “A big [wedding] one in Durango, Colorado.”

The 22-year-old pianist plays advanced classical pieces he said requires years of practice and discipline.

Solorzano said he has been playing piano for about 14 years, but performing at the mall has not always been easy.

“I like to keep to myself, and [I am] not a very social person,” Solorzano said. “I can be shy at first, but then I open up once I get to know you.”

Solorzano said performing in the mall is much different than playing a recital.

Through the hustle and bustle of the stores and shoppers, Solorzano stays still in the mall pavilion, his fingers moving along the keys.

“Most of the time, I feel invisible,” Solorzano said.

Solorzano said he prefers the feeling of seeming “invisible” when performing in the mall because it makes him more comfortable in knowing there is not someone watching him throughout the entirety of his performance.

On the green in the middle of the Golden Triangle mall in Denton, TX, Mechanical Engineering Junior Alex Solorzano plays a piece for those passing by. Solorzano studied jazz a little his freshman year, continuing to practice and share his musical talents with others. Katie Jenkins

“Every now and then I will have someone get close to me and listen, while they watch my fingers,” Solorzano said. “I have no problem with that…[but] sometimes it makes me nervous.”

Army Veteran Joseph Lehrisse, 79, said he sits and listens to the pianists often, just enjoying the music.

“I love a [good] piano,” Lehrisse said. “I can’t hit a note on it, but I love it.”

Solorzano calls himself a “perfectionist,” so being in such a demanding major while also finding the time to practice piano can become difficult.

UNT’s engineering program is known for being thorough and time consuming, and Solorzano said it can be hard to find a balance.

While practice makes perfect, it also can make things a little more stressful.

“I practice piano [at least] an hour a day,” Solorzano said. “It’s definitely hard to practice consistently during school. The harder I practice a song, the better it sounds.”

He translates this idea to multiple facets of his life.

“The harder you work, the better your chance is to succeed,” Solorzano said.

Many of the pieces Solorzano performs at the mall are his own. He plays pieces people might not be as accustomed to hearing.

He calls this a “musical conversation.”

“I write my own jazz pieces and play a lot of jazz improvisation,” Solorzano said. “The people walking around in the mall get to hear complex, classical pieces they don’t hear every day.”

Rebecca Castinellas with Guest Services at Golden Triangle Mall said she loves the atmosphere the pianist brings to the shopping center.

“Sometimes it’s so boring in this mall [because] it’s not a busy mall, so when pianists [like Alex] come in, it’s nicer,” Castinellas said. “It feels like an old time movie.”

Castinellas said she used to play piano in high school, and when she sees pianists performing in the mall, she feels happy knowing people still play.

“That’s what it’s all about, inspiring the younger generations to keep playing music,” Castinellas said.

While Solorzano is pushing towards finishing his degree in engineering, he looks forward to spending what free time he has performing piano for fellow Dentonites.

While his two passions are vastly different, Solorzano said music is just as complex.

“The formation of musical phrases that I come up with on the spot – I use these phrases to tell a story, much like sentences in dialogue,” Solorzano said.

Featured Image: Mechanical Engineering Junior Alex Solorzano has been playing piano at the Golden Triangle Mall in Denton, TX for 1 1/2 years. Once a week, Solorzano plays a combination of classical pieces and original jazz improvisations at the mall. Katie Jenkins

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Nina Quatrino

Nina Quatrino

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