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An SFCM Journey: From Pre-College to Undergrad

Pre-College graduate Christopher Salinas

SFCM’s Pre-College graduates are some of the most accomplished and academically successful students in their age group. Students who have studied at SFCM regularly go on to study music at a college or conservatory or pursue medicine, engineering, or another discipline at institutions such as Harvard University, UC Berkeley, Brown University, and Princeton University, among others.

Whether the students of a graduating class elect to choose music as a major in college or go on to study in a different field, there are always those who feel it’s their life’s calling to dedicate themselves to their art. One of these students is Christopher Salinas, a Pre-College student who graduates this spring and will continue to study at SFCM as a collegiate student.

Salinas, a piano player, had been studying in the Pre-College since he was in the fifth grade. For his freshman and sophomore year of high school, he moved to Romania—Salinas has Romanian roots and speaks the language—to study music abroad. After being in Romania, having the international experience he was looking for, Salinas felt it was time to return home and continue in the Pre-College.

“The Pre-College program really was good for me,” Salinas says. “I learned so much. It’s on Saturdays, and it was the highlight of my week. I got the whole well-rounded experience.”

As Salinas was interested in going on to study music at the collegiate level, SFCM seemed like an option he couldn’t ignore.

“It’s a guarantee that the collegiate level of SFCM is going to be high quality because serious people know they’re going to be doing music for a living at that point,” he says.

When it was time to decide where he’d go to school, SFCM was the clear winner.

“There were so many good things about the Conservatory that I felt I couldn’t leave,” he notes. “I’m really optimistic about the direction the school is going in, with the new Bowes Center and everything. What really got me, as opposed to different schools, is how relevant it all feels to the current music climate right now.”

It’s clear that Salinas thinks hard about the state of music education and the possibilities and opportunities he’ll be afforded as a college student.

“It’s not just conserving—it goes past the classification of being a conservatory. It’s not conserving the past, it’s integrating history into the present and moving towards the future. I didn’t get that at some of the other schools I applied to and visited. That’s what made me stay.”

Aside from his love of SFCM as an institution, Salinas is especially thrilled to start working with his soon-to-be private instructor.

“I connected with an amazing teacher who I’m very excited about studying with, Sharon Mann. That’s actually, on top of everything, the main reason—you’ve got to connect with your teacher.”

Salinas draws acclaim from his Pre-College teachers, as well—a sign of his future success under the tutelage of Mann.

“I am optimistic about Christopher's long term development as a pianist, and am delighted that he will continue his studies at SFCM with Professor Mann,” says pianist and SFCM Pre-College teacher Annamarie McCarthy. “Christopher is persistent, thoughtful and fully engaged in his music studies. I know that he will be receptive to the unique undergraduate opportunities that await him.”

And as he’s ready to graduate high school and move on from the Pre-College, Salinas feels this change is exactly what he needs in his life.

“I think the curriculum will be good, I’m looking forward to performance opportunities—really, in general, it’s about that next step for me. Right now, it’s about me moving forward, connecting with other musicians.”