DENTON (UNT), Texas -- University of North Texas College of Music performance and jazz studies doctoral student Daniel Pinilla has won the $10,000 top prize in UNT’s 2017 Sherman-Barsanti Inspiration Awards. Pinilla was awarded the honor April 5 for his project involving the development of a series of workshops for children in rural Colombia who have been traumatized by armed conflict.
“Colombia is a nation that has been faced with different manifestations of violence,” Pinilla said. “A significant part of the population is faced with no possibility for realizing their personal goals or cultivating their talents to the point that they do not even allow themselves to dream. Illegal armed groups have taken advantage of these children’s condition. The children are recruited by those groups and told they will have a chance of ‘becoming someone,’ but then the rifle becomes the tool for them to achieve that purpose.”
Pinilla said the award will help him achieve goals more quickly, and give the mission status and visibility.
“My project is based on a series of music workshops in the outskirts of the capital that attempt to reach vulnerable communities and work with children ages 6 to 18 through the beauty of music,” Pinilla said. “These workshops are designed to cultivate the spirits, talents and dreams of the participants in order to contribute to the healing process of Colombian society in the times of the post-conflict. I contribute in showing them how discipline and hard work can open a new world of possibilities in the field of music – playing, performing, teaching and expressing themselves.”
Two other finalists – Prateek Kalakuntla, a student in UNT's Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science, and Kyle Gordon, a College of Music graduate student – also were honored at the reception and received cash prizes of $3,000 and $1,000 respectively.
The awards are made possible by a $350,000 gift from donors Bob and Bette Sherman and honors student creativity. It is open to full-time UNT undergraduate or graduate students with a grade point average of 3.0 or higher in any academic program.
“We are honored to be able to provide this monetary recognition of the unique contributions from these extraordinarily talented students,” said Bob Sherman. “The imagination displayed by these individuals continues to highlight the breadth of innovation, creativity and broad thinking that is present across the UNT campus.”
Pinilla hopes that he can inspire harmony through the project:
“At this crucial time in Colombian history, where one of the main guerrillas has moved a step forward to a peace agreement, it is an ethical responsibility for the Colombian state to work to improve and solve these societal issues. This, in order to pave the ground that will serve as the foundation for a long lasting peace.”
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