We at Art Of PA are looking to highlight some of the artists and musicians in the area in a new section we are calling “Up Close and Personal.” To kick off the inaugural edition we sat down with our Outreach Committee member and Bloomsburg University Piano Instructor, Charisse Baldoria to find out how she got into music and how she found her way to Bloomsburg.

Charisse Baldoria is a Philippine-born pianist who fuses Western pianism with her Southeast Asian and Hispanic heritage and integrates various art forms into a concert experience. She is a prizewinner of international competitions, she has performed on five continents, establishing a career as a pianist with multidisciplinary interests.

Currently, Charisse is an Associate Professor of Piano at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Baldoria also taught at the University of the Philippines during her Fulbright home residence requirement. In addition to piano lessons, she has taught piano literature, piano seminar, class piano, music appreciation, Latin American music, and harpsichord (whose program she established at the University of the Philippines). She also founded Bloomsburg’s Piano Day, an annual event where interested piano students get to perform at Mitrani Hall and receive masterclasses from Dr. Baldoria and top pedagogues.

Charisse’s interest in music started at a very young age. At the age of 4 years old she found herself instantly attracted to the sight and sounds of a piano. If her parents were visiting friends, Charisse would be found tapping away at the keys and exploring the various sounds coming from their piano. After her first discovery of the piano, she begged her parents to get a piano for the house and one day this magnificent instrument arrived and was a lot more accessible. The first song Charisse learned how to play on the piano was the French nursery rhyme “Frère Jacques.” She had a very keen ear for music and learned to play the song by sound alone. Charisse started taking formal music lessons at the age of 5 from her neighborhood teacher.

As Charisse progressed with her musical training she quickly outgrew the skills of her teacher and found a new, highly trained pianist at the University of Philippines that taught her from age 7 to 21. After completing her undergrad in the Phillipenes, Charisse was faced with a crossroads and had to decide between studying abroad or becoming a lawyer. Charisse was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and pursued her Master’s degree at the University of Michigan. While there she studied piano with Logan Skelton and also earned a Doctorate degree. After grad school, Charisse moved to Bloomsburg, PA to take a job at Bloomsburg University as a piano professor. Currently, she provides lessons and classes on the piano and also teaches music appreciation.

Her piano students have performed at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall selected from Honors Recital auditions, and gone into graduate programs in piano performance. She has regularly coached advanced piano students in the Philippines, some of whom have gone into music programs in the United States and won scholarships.

Outside of her academic career, Charisse has performed all over the world. Typically if she is working on a new piece, she will debut it in Bloomsburg and then take it on tour. Her last musical program was actually quite a collaborative performance and featured two guest singers. As Charisse explores her musical creativity she loves collaborating with other artists and industry professionals. She has collaborated with fellow faculty members and students and even included dancers, a performance artist, a visual artist, and a video artist. Charisse is a firm believer that music inspires and visualizes the connection to the other arts and literature.

Charisse’s music is inspired by South East Asia and Latin America. Her latest musical project which debuted on November 10, 2018, involved a series of art songs inspired by the poetry of Denise Levertov and Sara Teasdale. Alchemy was written for baritone and piano, and The Kiss was written for soprano and piano. These compositions started back in February 2018 and took about 8 – 10 months to finally come to fruition. This concert incorporated a team of audio engineers and a videographer who captured the performance with three cameras. Coordinating all of this with the stage crew and then post production makes it a daunting task but Charisse says it is all worth it in the end.

When asked what advice she might have for aspiring musicians or those interested in the arts she insisted that you simply follow your gut. If you are interested in something, pursue it. She knows first hand the rewards that were plentiful for her willingness to just go forth and give it a shot.

Charisse is quite happy with her academic career as it gives her the flexibility and security to teach the next generation of musicians and also have an opportunity to pursue her artform. She feels that if she was just a full-time performer, the solitude of the practice room may feel too lonely or wear her out. Being a professor provides a nice balance.

Right now Charisse is prepping for an upcoming sabbatical where she will be traveling to South East Asia and Europe. While traveling she plans on pursuing the different facets of being an artist. She will be performing her own and other compositions and is very interested in the history of the piano around Asia. The piano is originally from Europe and Charisse wants to unearth the stories about how it arrived and became popular in Asia. This is a topic that currently does not have any real supporting research about it right now. Charisse plans on documenting her travels and research on her website https://www.charissebaldoria.com. She is also a hobbyist photographer and will have several amazing pictures to share while she is on her journey. Be sure and follow along!