Sharp clothes and a slicked-back haircut emphasize the dashing personality of Montclair State University music education major Ricardo Taveras. Smooth and charming as can be, the 22-year-old has become the living embodiment of the notes that emanate from his guitar.
Where this Montclair State junior separates himself from the rest is his interest in using music and education together to help solve many of the issues in today’s world.
“I believe education is the [solution] to almost every possible problem in society,” said Taveras, who is a skilled guitarist. “And, because of the flexibility to approach music from many different angles – mathematics, literature, social sciences – it allows us not only to relate to something we can all identify with, but also to have fun with sound while learning about a variety of topics.”
Taveras has made powerful community ties, extending the first arms of his large scale plan to help educate the world. He works with a music education group called “Stringing With Angela,” where he helps deliver violin lessons to 14 different schools in and around Summit, N.J., with more to come. He also coordinates with ‘Learn, Laugh and Lead,’ an organization that provides music lessons and other various educational, community-based activities for kids.
Taveras worked toward enacting his dream while on a trip to the Summer School Seggau run by the University of Graz in Graz, Austria. The cities of Graz and Montclair, N.J. have a nearly 70-year-old city sistership, including a strong working relationship between Uni-Graz and Montclair State. His work there also marked the first time a Dominican attended the prestigious program, which only accepts around 90 applicants per year.
His project in Graz, entitled “Lack of Education as a Social Problem,” included a poster and an interactive music presentation. The idea behind the project was to make education a more accessible opportunity for people and even included an idea he has to make community college a societal requirement.
Other program participants, including representatives from over 30 nations, were very excited about this, pointing to the interactivity as the most engaging part of the project. “It left me with a great memory, because I can just remember making eye contact with people that were like, ‘I’m going to mess this up so bad.’ But, it made it such a good experience,” said Marianne Gosselin. a University of Graz participant.
After the summer school, eight different articles were written at various news publications in the Dominican Republic about Taveras’ participation in the conference. Each one praised the barrier-breaking achievements of Taveras. These kinds of experiences, Taveras thinks, are the way that people can receive lasting effects of his work to improve education.
Taveras has a long history in music performance. His impressive résumé includes nine years of singing, seven years on guitar and six years on piano as well as a slew of other instruments for a couple of years that he is learning for music school.
Taveras was born in the Bronx, but was raised until the age of 18 in the Dominican Republic. He showed a strong interest in music from a young age and this developed into something monumental by the time he entered high school.
“When I approached high school, I got accepted to the National Music Conservatory of the Dominican Republic, [which] is and was considered the highest level of music school in the DR,” said Taveras. His attendance into the conservatory has resulted in the creation of a very polished and well-rounded musician in Taveras, further contributing to the quality of education he can help bring to those he comes in contact with.
“I do know he’s a terrific improviser at the keyboard,” said Dr. Marissa Silverman, a Montclair State professor and Taveras’ mentor. Dr. Silverman and Taveras have been working together on his major research project also titled “Lack of Education as a Social Problem.” More than one year in the making, his venture will be presented at the Montclair State annual Research Symposium next April.
“I really appreciate Ricardo’s spirit and idealism,” said Dr. Silverman. “He seems to want to change the world and I really like that about him. Ricardo is caring, diligent, enthusiastic and dedicated. Also, he’s not afraid to alter his perspectives about important issues. This shows he’s very flexible and open-minded. These are all very important qualities to have as an educator.”
Taveras’ dreams stretch to becoming one of the head administrators in the U.S. government for national education, where he believes he can make a powerful impact nationwide. Similarly, those around Taveras truly believe his aspiration is not far beyond his reach. “Ricardo is a special human being, with an enormous heart and desire to help others,” said Valery Cury, Taveras’ girlfriend. “He is determined and precise. He knows what he wants, when he wants it and how he wants it.”
On a very large scale, Taveras plans to amplify his already existing work on a national level and, in a perfect world, even globally. “He is always thinking about a new crazy idea that might change the education system,” said Cury. “He is full of energy and definitely a problem solver.”