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A Hope and a Prayer: MSM Student Wins VoxPopuli Award at International Competition

Carlos Cordero (M.M. Composition ’18) sets St. Teresa of Avila’s prayer “Nada Te Turbe” to music for mixed choir.

“Let nothing disturb you/Let nothing frighten you/All things pass away” begins “Nada Te Turbe,” the poem by St. Teresa of Avila that inspired Carlos Cordero (M.M. Composition ’18) to create his latest award-winning choral composition.

“It’s a message of hope,” says Cordero. “It was a tough year for the world, and I think we needed to hear that message, to remember that we’re not alone.”

Though Cordero describes 2017 as “fantastic” in many ways — he won Chorus Austin’s 2017 Young Composers Competition and excelled in his graduate studies at the University of Houston — he also watched his home country of Venezuela struggle with an economic crisis.

“The poem makes me feel like ‘you can do it, you can get through this,’ and I wanted to make music with the same hopefulness and positive attitude,” he says.

Cordero’s “Nada Te Turbe” won the VoxPopuli Audience Award at the inaugural International Choral Composition Competition “Alberto Grau” (CIGGAC). The competition, named after the legendary Venezuelan composer and choral conductor, was launched in 2017 to encourage the creation of new choral music written in Spanish.

As both a singer and composer, Cordero brings a unique sensibility to his choral works. “Singing was my first love,” he says, recalling how his cousin Miguel Pedroza (B.M. Vocal Performance ’17) introduced him to choir when they were in Maracaibo. Pedroza also introduced Cordero to the Moores School of Music (MSM), encouraging him to visit UH when he was a student and Cordero was applying to graduate programs. “He told me, ‘You have to come here,’” recalls Cordero. “And he was right. UH feels like home.”

The close-knit UH community has helped Cordero see evolve artistically, and he credits his mentor Dr. David Ashley White, a professor of composition and music theory, with encouraging him to take creative risks. “Working with Dr. White has been an incredible opportunity. He opens doors for me, and helps me to explore new ideas,” says Cordero. 

Cordero also sings with the renowned Concert Chorale under the director of Dr. Betsy Cook Weber. “Singing is a big part of me, and I didn’t want to abandon that part of myself. Being in Concert Choral fills me with so much energy and it challenges me to grow.” Plus, he can apply what he learns as a performer to his choral compositions and even premiere original works with the UH choirs. “The choir faculty has been really nurturing,” he says. “They trust me and they give me a place for my music.”