Town Talk Features

Student Standouts: 1.22.20

daniel herrera, westminster christian academy
Senior Daniel Herrera is motivated by music, and he enjoys using his skills at the keyboard to inspire others. He’s been playing the piano since age 6 and says he loves immersing himself in jazz, classical, gospel and other styles from around the world. “My parents are from Mexico City, and a lot of our family members play instruments,” he says. “That’s where my love of music comes from.”

Daniel is a member of Jazz St. Louis’ JazzU program for high school students, and recently he was selected as the sole pianist for the 2020 Missouri All-State Jazz Band. That honor will take him to the 2020 Missouri Music Educators Association conference, where he’ll perform with other high school musicians. Daniel also has been named a National Hispanic Scholar for his academic achievements.

Where do you perform?
I’ve been part of the JazzU program since middle school, and we have played at different events like the St. Louis Art Fair and galas at The Ritz-Carlton. I also play at my church on Sundays, I’m in the concert and jazz bands at school, and I play as a volunteer for rehearsals and recitals.

What other musical successes have you had?
Every year during homecoming, my school holds a talent and variety show, and this past year, it had a Wild West theme, the ‘Hoedown Showdown.’ I played the piano and won. I was surprised—I was one of just a few people playing an instrument, but it was a lot of fun.

How do you keep learning?
The JazzU program brings in professional artists who perform with us and help with our classes and rehearsals. One of my favorites was Emmet Cohen, a prominent jazz pianist and composer. I got to work with him one-on-one, and I still remember his advice to this day. I’ve also enjoyed learning from instructors like Adaron Jackson, director of jazz studies at UMSL.

Do you ever compose music?
I haven’t done much of that yet, but I want to. I’m building a repertoire of different musical styles and taking AP music theory at school, so that will help me with composition.

What are some of your other interests?
At school, I participate in chess club and robotics. I love math and science; I’m taking AP courses in both subjects because they are passions of mine.

What are your future plans?
I’m starting at Washington University in the fall and want to study chemical or mechanical engineering. Last summer, I worked as an assistant in a research lab there, and I’ve met with biomedical engineering faculty members to talk about that field as well. Besides becoming an engineer, I’ve also thought about teaching piano. I definitely don’t want to give up my music! 

As part of its sponsorship, Sport Court has made a donation to New City Fellowship on behalf of Daniel.

Photo courtesy of Westminster Christian Academy