UCA alumnus wins music fellowship

Naren Palomino Pardo, a recent University of Central Arkansas graduate, earned the 2022 Clara Wells Fellowship Award from the American Matthay Association at the 64th Annual Matthay Piano Festival. 

Palomino is a native of Cochabamba, Bolivia, where he studied music at the Academia Nacional de Música, “Man Césped.” After his graduation, he joined the faculty of the music academy, where he taught piano and ear training. 

At a piano, Neil Rutman (left) poses with his student Naren Palomino and his former teacher Aiko Onishi, who, at 97, taught at the 2022 Matthay Piano Festival.

Neil Rutman (left) with his student Naren Palomino and his former teacher Aiko Onishi, who, at 97, taught at the 2022 Matthay Piano Festival.

“Many students, once they graduate, choose to go a different path because there is no place in Bolivia to continue to study music,” Palomino said. 

A few years ago, Palomino’s childhood friend and fellow musician came to UCA from Bolivia to earn a master’s degree in music. 

“We used to talk on the phone a lot,” Palomino said. “He said I would be a good fit and highly recommended I apply. I applied the very next year. Luckily I got accepted into the program and began studying under Dr. Neil Rutman.”  

“Naren entered my class as an undergraduate piano major in 2018, having arrived freshly from Bolivia, speaking only fundamental English,” said Rutman, a professor in UCA’s Department of Music. “His English quickly improved and he showed that he had a unique personality: friendly, popular, relaxed. He attracted many good relationships in the music department.”

At UCA, Palomino played piano and keyboard for the UCA Wind Ensemble, the UCA Studio Jazz ensemble and the Conway Symphony Orchestra. He earned a bachelor’s degree in music in May 2022.

“He had, and still has, a natural performing ability, which is something hard to teach,” Rutman said. “He communicated the essence of the music – whether it was dramatic or tender – naturally.”

In Palomino’s senior year, Rutman suggested he apply for the Clara Wells Fellowship Award.

“I sincerely wasn’t expecting to get it but after one month, I got the news I would perform!” Palomino said. “Even though I had already graduated from UCA, Dr. Rutman continued to prepare me for the festival during the break. He truly cares about each of his students. Also, he played a marvelous closing recital at the festival!”

Naren Palomino sits at a piano on stage.

Naren Palomino

The annual Matthay Piano Festival took place in June at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minnesota. During his recital, Palomino played “Ballade No. 4 in F minor, Op. 52,” a piece composed in 1842 by Polish composer Frédéric Chopin. 

“I was elated for him,” Rutman said. “It is beautiful to see students have positive success experiences.”

“Having the opportunity to study in a high-level educational setting allowed me to see the real world of classical music,” Palomino said. “I cannot express how vital the music department at UCA was for my musical training and I could not be more grateful for the dedication of the faculty members and the support of my classmates.”

Palomino will attend graduate school at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance this fall.