Not many musicians ever have the opportunity to play at New York City’s historic Carnegie Hall, but at age 10, Valentina Ramos '26 did just that. As the winner in both the piano and harp categories in the age 12 division of the adjudicated Elite International Music Composition held in December, Valentina earned the grand prize—the honor of performing at Carnegie Hall with other winners from around the country.
On that famous stage, Valentina played "Pistache" by Bernard Andres on the harp and "Sonatina C Major Opus 55" by Frederick Kuhlau on the piano, receiving rousing applause from the audience after each performance. At the spring 2019 Sanford music recital, Valentina performed the same piano piece. Check out her performance.
"Looking out from the stage at Carnegie Hall was an unforgettable experience," remarked Valentina. "My mother reminded me to try very hard to remember every moment. I can still see the balcony, three grand crystal chandeliers, the people in the audience, the stage lights, my harp, and the most amazing Steinway piano I have ever played. It was magical."
While Valentina has studied piano since age 7, she only started learning the harp in January 2019. When her parents bought Valentina and her brother, Andrés '26, a new harp for Christmas in 2018, both children took to the instrument right away. They enjoyed working with Eunice Kim, a private piano and harp instructor at Sanford, and they were saddened by her recent move to California. Mrs. Kim registered both Valentina and Andrés for the American Harp Society (Philadelphia Chapter) Competition, which was held in March 2019 at Temple University. Valentina won first place and Andres won third place in their divisions.
It did not take this young competitor long to experience another win. At the Steinway Piano Jr Competition in Philadelphia in May 2019, Valentina came home with an Honorable Mention award. "This was only my second exposure to competition, and it was very exciting," stated Valentina. "I was able to see technique and expression from other performers, which was fascinating!"
Valentina’s success with both the harp and piano continued. In November 2019, she took two examinations with the Associated Board of Royal School of Music at West Chester University. One exam was for Level 3 harp and the second exam was for Level 4 piano. (Level 8 is the highest level.) Valentina received "Distinction" in both categories, which is the highest possible achievement. Andres also received "Distinction" on his Level 2 harp exam.
Currently, Valentina’s harp teacher is Anne Sullivan, a graduate of Curtis Institute of Music and an adjunct harp instructor at the University of Delaware and Swarthmore College. Her piano teacher, Mitzi DeWhitt, is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma who has more than 40 years of piano and music theory teaching experience.
In addition to music, Valentina enjoys other pastimes and passions. She explained: "When I am not playing music, I do love to draw. I love art a lot. I also love to cook and eat. Andrés and I are very active tennis players. We both compete in USTA tournaments and have won many matches in our division."
Valentina's parents concluded: "We have two wonderful and gifted children, and we are proud of each of them. Hopefully, the journey to Carnegie Hall will inspire our children to continue their hard work and positive spirit." Valentina’s Sanford family joins her parents and brother in congratulating her for this amazing musical achievement.