Dr. Gabriela Calderón Cornejo

Meet Dr. Ana Gabriela Calderón Cornejo, the winner of 2021 3-Minute Thesis Competition, who earned a Doctor of Arts in Music in May 2021.

Her co-advisor Dr. Raymond Kilburn said this about Gabriela, “Gaby has a passion for her topic which is clear to all who hear her present this important research. That passion is fueled by the spark of curiosity, creativity, and an unusual degree of determination and endurance. Couple this with a methodical approach, and you have a student that excels in all areas of her studies, perhaps most notably her performance recitals. Gaby has a bright future ahead of her, and it has been my pleasure to be a part of her journey.”


Here is a Q and A with Dr. Calderón Cornejo

What made you select your research topic?

This research topic was born from my desire to explore music from my own heritage and to give exposure to compositions that aren’t well known, much less, included in recitals and concerts. While examining different compilations of Latin American music, it was demoralizing to realize the true scarcity of pieces written by women. Clearly, this should not have been surprising since, historically, women have had to face obstacles and deal with culturally imposed limitations due to their gender. Because Latin America was not unfamiliar to these practices, I found it relevant to work on rescuing pieces composed by Latin American women, specifically composers from the predigital era whose music is at larger risk of disappearing.

Please tell us about your research?

For my research, the works of five women composers, born between 1850 and 1950, from different Latin American countries were selected to study and give exposure to their music. These composers were chosen not only because of their ability to tell a story with their music, but most importantly, due to the inclusion of the “mestizo” culture in their works. The five selected composers’ music incorporates  distinctive mixtures of European, Native American, and African features that are part of Latin American music traditions, while also heavily borrowing nationalistic features from their own countries. Nevertheless, they merge these elements with characteristics from folk, Indigenous, and Western music practices. With the integration of many different traits, each has built a truly unique style that is worth preserving.

The significance of this study involved providing readers with a better understanding of the selected composers. The project consisted of three different, but equally important parts: a research paper, an anthology, and a recording. The short research paper dealt with specific information regarding the relevance of these composers, their lives, musical elements comprising their styles, works, and contributions to both the musical field and society. The anthology consisted of new editions of the selected pieces, making them accessible to future performers and scholars interested in studying these compositions. Finally, a recording consisting of new versions of the works contained in the anthology provided an interpretation of the composers’ work. Together, the research paper, the anthology, and the recording comprised the first compilation solely including piano works by Latin American women composers born before 1950.

What brought you to Ball State University?

At first, I was very attracted to BSU’s distinctive Doctor of Arts program as I was interested in strengthening not only my piano skills, but also honing my teaching abilities. However, throughout the application process, I met Dr. Ray Kilburn and I became very interested in joining his studio. Generally, for a major in performance, no matter the instrument, applied lessons comprise a substantial portion of the curriculum and therefore, the dynamic between instructor and student is a very significant factor to consider when selecting a program. At the moment, I was looking for an instructor who was experienced, knowledgeable, friendly, and patient. After I took a few trial lessons with Dr. Kilburn, I realized that he had the tools to help me grow and reach my musical potential. Therefore, when I was accepted into the program and was offered a graduate assistantship, I had no doubts of accepting the offer.

What are your future goals/career goals?

Currently, it is my ambition to continue a teaching and performing career accentuated by my certificate in entrepreneurial music. It is my goal to pursue consistent musical growth by working with students from different ages, levels, backgrounds, and interests. In addition, I am very invested in continuing to seek performing opportunities through both my workplace and community outreach programs. I believe that this will also provide me with the chance of carrying on with my project of bringing exposure to works by Latin American and other women composers. Finally, it is my aspiration to publish both my anthology and recording of Piano Works by Latin American Women Composers. Hopefully by shedding light on these remarkable composers, more pianists and other scholars will become aware of these works and other compositions increasing their prominence within recitals, concerts, discussions, and conferences.

Anything else you would like us to know?

I truly enjoyed my time at Ball State University and living in Muncie. A special shout out to my advisor Dr. Raymond Kilburn for all of his dedication and support and to Savage’s blue cheese jalapeño burger.