Playing with possibility

Paulo do Nascimento Brito is a top performer, in more ways than one.  As both a GS student and a classically trained pianist, his passion for learning becomes clear the instant that he starts talking.

And this passion has served him well, taking him around the world for music training and now to New York City.  A German major with an interest in philosophy and comparative literature, do Nascimento Brito first enrolled at Columbia University two years ago after studying music in Kiev, Ukraine.

“It’s something that I started to want when it became possible,” he said of returning to college.

Now 24, do Nascimento Brito began traveling to Kiev at age 16.  After graduating from high school in Washington, D.C., he received private instruction in advanced theory and composition in Ukraine at the M.V. Lysenko Special Music School and the P.I. Tchaikovsky National Academy of Music.

He began the college application process again (he had already done so while in high school).  Looking to explore additional opportunities, do Nascimento Brito ultimately enrolled at GS.

“I have realized that a lot of the things that I want and a lot of the things that I’m working towards at the piano are things that I want right now,” he explained.

He credits GS for instilling in him an appreciation for opportunity – in music, academics, and beyond.

And yet do Nascimento Brito’s trajectory as a classical pianist speaks to a history of seizing opportunities.  Born in Rio de Janeiro in 1987 and raised primarily in the United States, do Nascimento Brito’s musical career had a rather conventional beginning.

“[I started] the same way everybody starts.  You know, your mother takes you [to a lesson] or something like that.”  For do Nascimento Brito, such lessons began at age five.  He stressed, however, that he only fully committed himself to training ten years later.

“When I was 15,” he recounted, “I remember telling myself ‘either I’m going to do this or I’m not going to do this,’ and it was an interesting moment because no one told me that.  I really could have stopped [playing] then, too, but I didn’t… and ever since then, I’ve always been able to organize how I [practice].”

His discipline and determination continues to color his decisions, especially as he begins to consider life after GS.  Although he is interested in the performance route rather than the academic one as far as music is concerned, he is interested in an academic career in the humanities, in part thanks to his exposure to such fields while at GS.  Do Nascimento Brito was recently awarded the Mary Seaman Memorial Scholarship – a GS named scholarship – for the upcoming academic year.

This summer, however, do Nascimento Brito is focused on attaining a more immediate goal: learning Greek.  In addition to working and practicing piano (without, for over a year, a teacher), he has set aside three hours, four days a week, for an intensive course in the classic language.

As he completes his course requirements, do Nascimento Brito has, in fact, performed more frequently in piano competitions and concerts, with his initial goal for playing the piano – competing internationally – finally playing out.  For now, he doesn’t foresee a future without foot pedals and F-sharps.  Still, he hopes to be defined by more than his musical accomplishments.

“It is [a part of you],” he says of playing the piano.  “It doesn’t mean you’re tied down to it, either.  And being here has helped me realize that…. Once you’ve done it to a certain point anyway, it will always be a part of who you are.”

This profile was originally published on GS News here