By Steve Sears
31-year-old Dr. Patricio Molina has accomplished many things, including attending college classes for music at the age of four.
However, perhaps his biggest thrill is getting instruments to individuals who want to learn to play them but can’t afford them.
Molina is the co-founder and president of Notes for Growth Inc., a non-profit foundation that gives musical instruments to underprivileged children. He explains its purpose. “In 2018, one of the things I noticed is that a lot of people in this area want to get rid of their pianos, either because they want to play an electronic keyboard, which is easier to move and it’s more flexible, or because no one’s playing the piano, so they just want to get rid of it.” He also noticed that there were a lot of people that needed pianos, especially students that could not afford the instrument, so he wanted to find a way to connect both sides and has. “We’ve sent three shipments of pianos to Chile, we have given a few pianos here in this area, and we’re looking to expand with other instruments as well, which we will send to the Dominican Republic, to Puerto Rico, and hopefully will expand to the Middle East as well.” A Carnegie Hall concert is scheduled for October 15, 2021 to support the non-profit.
“I was born in Chile, but my mom is from Syria, so I’m half Arabic, half Chilean,” Molina says of his background. “I learned how to write and read music before I learned how to write and read Spanish, which is my native language. So, my first language was always music, and even before I was conscious of knowing, I was already playing music.”
Molina was the first musician in his family. “There was a piano in the house – and I see this with my son, Tommy – we have all these toys laying around, but he goes to the piano. That’s what he wants, just to hear different sounds. And I’m told by my parents that’s what I did, and my dad wanted to take advantage of all the time that I was spending on the piano. I picked it up so quickly that, he began to look for teachers that would teach me music, and there were not many willing to take on a three-year-old student,” he says.
However, the University of Chile was, and at age four, the school gave him a full scholarship to study music and piano. “Obviously, all my classmates were a lot older,” he recalls, “but many of the teachers and the whole community were very laid back, because there were some terms I could not understand because I was too young. The teachers were kind, very nice to me, and they would spend some extra time trying to explain.”
Molina, who serves as Music Director at Saint Thomas the Apostle Roman Catholic Parish in Bloomfield, has two doctorates, a D.M.A. in Piano Performance, and a Ph.D. in Music Composition, both from Rutgers University, a first in the history of the school. “I am surprised it’s the first one, to be honest with you,” Molina says. “No one has done two doctorates from it. But for many hundreds of years, that was the thing to do: be a composer, an academic, and a performer. I’m bringing all of that together (again). I’m hoping to help to change that.”
Molina also has exciting career developments. First, he is collaborating with the New Jersey Youth Symphony Orchestra. “They’re phenomenal,” he says, “and the music that I wrote is not easy at all. And they’re really stepping up, you know, they’re little professionals. There’s two pieces that I wrote for them.” One is based on his Chilean culture, and the second one is Arabic. “I’m celebrating both of my cultures,” he says with a smile. Then there’s his partnership with the Nokia Bell Labs experiments in the Arts and Technology Department. “This honestly is a dream come true,” Molina says. “I never thought that I would be able to do something this exciting, and that is bringing the technology of the orchestra together with the current technology, which is a cellphone. You download an app, and you’re going to be part of the composition.” The premiere date is sometime in May 2021.
Molina has been married to his wife, Mallory, for 1 ½ years, she a singer who has a master’s degree in Voice Performance and Pedagogy from the University of Connecticut, and he is a proud dad to Patricio Jr. (also known as Tommy).
For more information about Molina’s work, visit www.patriciofmolina.com.