As we celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re inspired by the personal resilience and professional determination of doctoral student and tenor saxophonist Pablo Beltran (DMA, Jazz Studies).
The Fulbright Latin American Scholarship Program of American Universities scholar from Bogotá, Colombia, recently reflected on the hardships he experienced leading up to his arrival in Boulder and his studies at the College of Music.
“Sometimes, we can’t change the challenges around us, like sickness and poverty,” he says. “But I’ve learned that it’s better to embrace these things and make the most of the life that we do have.”
Indeed, Beltan’s triumph over unforeseen circumstances began during his first semester as a master’s student in jazz performance at the University of Northern Texas. “I was living my dream at one of the most well-known, prestigious jazz studies programs in the world,” he explains. “But then my wife, Maria—who lives with hearing and sight impediments—collapsed and we had to return to Colombia for her treatments.”
As a way forward, the couple proceeded to set their sights on Barcelona, Spain, where healthcare for Maria was more accessible to them. Despite those odds, Beltran kept on, earning a master’s in jazz performance at the Liceu Conservatory in 2019. Soon after, he was awarded a Fulbright scholarship … just months before the pandemic hit.
“That’s what life brought to us,” says Beltran, recalling two-week hotel quarantines he endured in 2020 to begin his doctoral studies at CU Boulder. “We had one saxophone, one piece of luggage and a large service dog named Mingus. We learned to live with minimum stuff and we just embraced our experiences.
“Through all the difficulties and setbacks, we were able to see beauty.”
Adds Beltran, who—at age 18, moved to Cuba to explore his interest in music by studying the Russian method, a move that helped set the course for his technical skills on the saxophone: “I chose CU Boulder partly because of its focus on creating healing communities.”
Back in Colombia, Beltran taught music at the college-level for seven years before going to college himself. “Teaching—and teaching how to learn—has always been my passion,” he concludes.