By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – Oscar Erives describes himself as “mellow” and “relaxed.”
Most of the time, the University of Nebraska at Kearney senior is pretty soft-spoken.
When he’s on stage, though, audiences see – and hear – a completely different person.
“Music is a way to express myself and let out my feelings. It’s really helped me in that way,” said Erives, a piano performance major from Grand Island. “I’m very expressive in my playing – you can tell by my facial expressions and my movement – and that also shows it’s something I really love and want to share with the world.”
Inspired by his father Oscar Sr., a musician who likes to play regional Mexican music on the saxophone, Erives started playing the piano at age 6 and later learned the saxophone and accordion. He’s a vocalist, too.
“I grew up with a lot of different backgrounds, so I’m a pretty diverse musician,” he said. “I know how to play a lot of different things and a lot of different styles.”
Erives was part of the jazz, concert and marching bands at Grand Island Central Catholic, and he also performed with his father and experimented in music production with his brother Michael.
He’s been equally eclectic at UNK, where he received music performance and Loper Achievement scholarships. Erives has participated in numerous vocal and instrumental groups on campus, including the Pride of the Plains Marching Band, Wind Ensemble, Men’s Choir, Jazz/Rock Ensemble, Choraleers and Symphonic Band. He serves as a collaborative pianist, accompanist and piano technique tutor, as well.
Off campus, he’s been the music director at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Grand Island, co-music director at the Catholic Newman Center in Kearney and a pianist for the Flatwater Jazz Orchestra.
UNK collaborative pianist Mirim Kim called him a great musician with a versatile skill set.
“Oscar easily absorbs and brings out the musical ideas that we discuss. He has refined ears, which is very important, and he works hard in the practice room. Even if something is difficult to achieve immediately, he keeps working until he gets it,” she said. “His skills in a variety of genres definitely helped to broaden his spectrum of musicianship.”
Erives likes to play movie and video game scores in his free time – Zelda, Super Mario Bros. and other classic Nintendo titles are favorites – but he’s also developed “a lot more appreciation” for classical music.
“I didn’t really see myself playing classical music, but it’s something I’ve definitely enjoyed learning,” he said. “That’s helped me become a better musician.”
As a winner of the annual UNK Concerto/Aria Competition, he gets to perform as a featured soloist at the upcoming Kearney Symphony Orchestra concert. He’ll play the first movement of Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg’s “Piano Concerto in A minor.”
“It has been thrilling to see him evolve into and emerge as a performing young musician over the past four years,” said UNK music professor Nathan Buckner. “I have been able to see and observe this both in his piano lessons and on the recital stage.”
Erives called his time at UNK a “really good period of self-discovery.”
“I think it’s had a big impact on my life and who I am as a person,” he said. “Seeing how I’ve impacted others with my music has impacted me as well, knowing I can inspire other people and touch their hearts with my music. That’s been one of the best experiences.”
Erives will perform for the final time as a UNK student on May 19, when he plays the national anthem during the spring commencement ceremony before graduating with honors. He’ll pursue a master’s degree in piano performance at the University of Kansas this fall and he hopes to earn a doctorate down the road. College professor, performer and composer are potential careers.
“I’d like to make an impact on the music industry and people’s lives, and I’d like to do it on a big scale,” Erives said.
PHOTOS AND VIDEO BY ERIKA PRITCHARD, UNK COMMUNICATIONS
Kearney Symphony Orchestra Concert
Kearney Symphony Orchestra will present “Revisiting Masterworks” at 7:30 p.m. May 9 in the UNK Fine Arts Recital Hall. A pre-concert talk is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. in the Fine Arts Building Room 263.
The program includes works from Jean Sibelius, Edvard Grieg and Modest Mussorgsky.
Tickets are $13 for adults, $10 for UNK faculty and staff, $5 for youths ages 11-18 and free for children 10 and younger and UNK students with a valid ID. They can be purchased 12:30 to 5 p.m. weekdays at the UNK Theatre Box Office and one hour prior to the performance. For reservations, contact the box office at 308-865-8417 or firstname.lastname@example.org.