How passion drives the University Union’s latest piano performer

Graduate student practices and teaches while pursuing his degree


Cristian Gonzalez

Arend Aldama performed in the Sacramento State’s University Union for the first time Jan. 31, 2023. He said he was delighted to bring music to the ears of his fellow Hornets.

Esmeralda Navarro

On a stage at American River College, a man sits at a grand piano; an audience aims its focus on the player’s hands as they poise above the keys — they’re awaiting his performance, but his mind goes blank. 

It was Arend Aldama’s first performance at the college; his fingers came to a halt as he grasped his head. He could not remember the next part of the piece. 

“Those things happen and I know they are going to happen, but that doesn’t stop me,” Aldama said. 

Now a Sacramento State graduate student, Aldama’s musical journey began at seven years old. After unsuccessful trials with sports and tribulations with academics, Aldama’s parents decided to sign him up for piano lessons with Dr. Beverly Wesner-Hoehn

“After four lessons, we knew that was it,” Aldama’s mother, Marcella Aldama, said. “We knew that was his niche.” 

Wesner-Hoehn said Aldama eagerly sped through his lessons during his time at Sacramento Adventist Academy, a private pre-K through 12 school.

“He’d come into my studio and it was like he could hardly wait to play something for me on the piano,” Wesner-Hoehn said. “That jewel — that glow that comes with being a gem.”

After graduating from Sacramento Adventist Academy, Aldama earned an associate degree in music at American River College under notable professors and musicians Tatiana Scott and Joseph Gillman

When he transferred to Sac State fall 2016, he began studying under Professor of Music and Coordinator of Keyboard Studies Richard Cionco.

Aldama describes his progress under Cionco as a milestone because he learned how to become a “mature performer.” Before Cionco, Aldama said he was almost too excited when playing the keys, forgetting the importance of relishing the emotions of the music. 

“We explore different ways of looking, listening and thinking about music to unlock the beauty and inner logic,” Cionco said. “Arend has progressed fantastically and continues to do so.” 

Aldama graduated with a Bachelors in Music Performance spring 2019 and is currently in pursuit of his Masters Degree in Piano Performance at Sacramento State. On average, he said he practices 12-15 hours per week while juggling a vigorous masters program and teaching piano to children at Martucci Music.  

When an opportunity arose to perform in the University Union, Cionco motivated Aldama to take the gig. He now plays one or two times a month in the Union lobby, his keys echoing through the three-floor building as students stroll by.

After completing his degree, Aldama said he hopes to move to the East Coast and pursue his Doctorate degree in Piano Performance, while learning a more advanced piano repertoire. He also hopes to write his own piano technique book or dissertation on piano study. 

Aldama said he identifies as an introvert. He said he was never that “flashy football star” in school because of his struggle with performance anxiety.

“We all, as performers, get nervous whether you are in dance, in acting or a musician,” Aldama said. I’m still overcoming the anxiety of it.”

Aldama said Wesner-Hoehn’s outlook on considering a performance as a form of gift giving resonates with him. He said the performer is not performing for themselves, but for their audience.

When the audience roars and applauds at the end of a performance, Aldama said his satisfaction doesn’t come from a place of vanity, but the feeling of transferring beautiful sensations to the audience’s eardrums and heart. He said it puts a smile on his face to see his audience happy to hear music.

“Piano is like a relationship,” Aldama said. “It’s dedication, patience and hardwork. There’s going to be bumps in the road but don’t give up on it.”