Kevin De León Named Presser Scholar

The prestigious Presser Foundation scholarship honors musical, academic excellence.

Kevin DeLeon

Kevin De León has won the prestigious Presser Foundation Undergraduate Scholar Award.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Kevin De León, an aspiring film composer and senior at the University of California, Riverside, has won a prestigious Presser Foundation Undergraduate Scholar Award for the 2011-2012 academic year.

De León, a double major in music and psychology, is in the University Honors Program and is working on a senior thesis about film scoring tentatively titled, “Composing for Commercial Action and Romance Genres: Original Music Composition and Analysis of Blockbuster Techniques.” The thesis will feature an original composition. His mentor, associate professor of music Timothy Labor, describes De León as a “talented composer with professional drive and a rare combination of dramatic and musical sensitivity that makes his work exciting.”

The Presser Foundation is one of the few foundations in the United States dedicated solely to the support of music and music education. Undergraduate schools of music at accredited colleges, universities and independent institutions of higher education are designated to give the Presser Undergraduate Scholar Award annually to an outstanding music major whom they select. The UCR Department of Music has been a designated school since 2008. The Presser Undergraduate Scholar Award is given to one undergraduate at the end of the junior year, to be held during the senior year. The award carries a $4,800 scholarship and the student is designated a Presser Scholar.

The award recognizes musical and academic excellence, said Deborah Wong, professor and chair of the UCR Department of Music.

“Kevin is a highly motivated young student who will go far,” she said. “I love watching him seize opportunities offered by the UC system.”

De León, 21, studies piano with Kim Amin at UCR and has participated in many UCR music ensembles, playing guitar in UCR Mariachi Mexicatl and singing in the UCR Choral Ensemble. He grew up in Glendale and Fontana, Calif., graduated from Etiwanda High School, and is bilingual in English and Spanish. He will graduate in June 2013.

Winning the scholarship will enable him to participate this spring in a UCDC program in Washington, D.C., where he will attend an all-UC composition seminar led by Pulitzer Prize-winning and internationally recognized composer Roger Reynolds. While there he will serve as an intern at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, a research and educational unit of the Smithsonian Institution that promotes understanding and continuity of diverse, contemporary grassroots cultures in the United States and around the world.

“An opportunity such as this is quite rare, and I am confident the skills and knowledge that I will obtain from such a remarkable opportunity will be invaluable to my development as a composer,” said De León, who plans to pursue graduate study in music composition and is interested in writing music for film. “These funds have also enabled me to purchase music software that has been crucial to my development as a composer for film and has greatly benefited me in various scoring projects. I certainly would not have been able to afford such key software without these funds.”

Last year, De León composed music for a narration of Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Steadfast Tin Soldier,” a draft of which was performed at the UCR is Composing Aftershock concert. He is currently working on a piece for the UCR Wind Ensemble under Labor.

As a Gluck Fellow this year, he has given presentations in local schools on film scoring, which he describes as “my dream and passion.” His trio for piano, cello and flute will be performed at UCR is Composing on May 23, 2012. He also volunteers once a week for the Riverside County Philharmonic with classmate and former Presser Scholar Pricila Chavez Lara, where he assists in the cataloging of musical scores. 

De León plans to spend the summer in the UC Davis study-abroad program, “Americans in Paris,” studying representations of Paris in the 19th and 20th centuries, especially, music, film, literature, architecture, and art, and will learn about the city’s importance for modern culture.

 “I certainly feel blessed to have had all of the opportunities I have had thus far, and I have the Presser Scholar Award, in large part, to thank for this,” he said.

Listen to an excerpt from “The Steadfast Tin Soldier” here:

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