Turlock High School Student Invited to International Music Festival in Italy

Courtesy of Rachel Rojas

After playing the piano for the majority of his life, 17-year-old Heath Rojas – a junior at Turlock High School – has been invited to play piano in Italy with top student performers from around the world.

“It was amazing to find out that I had been selected,” said Rojas. “I’ve never been out of the country before. I didn’t think it would be possible, and I’m especially excited to visit such a dynamic country like Italy.”

The International Music Festival will be held in Casalmaggiore, Italy where select outstanding pianists from all over the world will join together to play in a beautifully restored 17th century concert hall. Students will also be given the opportunity to study music for three weeks in July, where they will be coached by an exceptional group of international music faculty.

Rojas, who has studied piano under Dr. John Hillebrandt for the past four years, has been playing piano since the age of three. Not only an exceptional pianist, Rojas is also second in his class at Turlock High School and was recently invited to attend the prestigious Ivy League East Coast Tour.

Rojas has played on the varsity tennis team at Turlock High School since he was a freshman, and has also participated in the cross country team. Alongside piano, Rojas plays the trumpet with the Turlock High School concert band and jazz band. Aside from music and sports, Rojas spends time as an active member of the Turlock High School Math Club and has attended multiple math competitions throughout his high school career.

Rojas began playing the piano after his older brother Julian took up piano lessons when he was young.

“He started before me, and I would go and watch him play, and I realized that I wanted to play myself, so I started taking lessons shortly after,” said Rojas.

“Naturally I’m very proud of him,” said Julian Rojas, a senior at UC Berkeley. “I think he definitely has a bright future ahead of him if he still wants to pursue music as a career. I support whatever he decides he wants to do.”

Heath’s parents, Rachel and Martin Rojas, are also very proud of Heath’s accomplishments and his recent acceptance to the International Music Festival.

“All of his life he has been self-motivated as a pianist, and of course I’m extremely proud,” said Rachel Rojas, Heath’s mother. “He has been a dedicated and hardworking pianist, and we’re very proud of him. He’s a strong supporter of the community and he is excited to go along with his career.”

Just two weeks ago, Rojas held a benefit solo recital where he played the piano to help raise funds for the Turlock High School band. Rojas also received fourth place in the United States Open Competition last year in Oakland, as well as the Certificate of Merit at a competition held in San Jose for advanced music students in Northern California.

“I really want to thank my parents, who have always pushed and encouraged me to pursue music and my dreams,” said Rojas. “And a big thank you to my piano teacher Dr. John Hillebrandt. Without him, none of this would’ve been possible.”

With a passion for music, Rojas hopes to continue studying music throughout college and one day have a career either as a concert pianist or a professor with a doctorate in music.

“In regards to music, this is one of the highlights of my life,” said Rojas. “Music has always been my passion.”

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