The New York Times once described violinist Daniel Andai as an exemplary leader in his role as a concertmaster leading members of the New York Philharmonic and the Manhattan School of Music in Carnegie Hall.
A sampling of reviews from his long list of performances worldwide have also praised Andai as dazzling, sensitive, passionate and mesmerizing in his career as a soloist, recitalist, chamber musician, recording artist and concertmaster in major concert venues across five continents.
"This school is very serious about educating students and continually enhancing its curriculum. The faculty at UTPA demonstrates a high level of musicianship. They have come from well-known universities and have extensive backgrounds in their field. They are the kind of people you want to be around," said Andai.
Andai, who has made special appearances with top artists, including Plácido Domingo, and dignitaries, such as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is also concertmaster of the Miami Symphony Orchestra and the New York-based Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas, which he served as concertmaster and soloist for their highly rated CD Mi Alma Mexicana. Known for his devotion to community engagement, he was named one of "20 under 40" by the international Poder Magazine and The Miami Herald, for exerting influence over the arts.
His teaching experience includes faculty positions at Miami-Dade College, New World School of the Arts in Miami and the Killington Music Festival in Vermont.
"Dr. Andai was selected based on his international career and outstanding achievements in the field of musical performance," said Dr. Dahlia Guerra, dean of the UTPA College of Arts and Humanities. "His presence at the University provides a unique opportunity for our students."
Guerra said the endowed chair supports and enhances the arts on campus and in the community by bringing outstanding artists to the University. She said Andai has proposed several activities to complement and enhance the mission of the endowed chair, including string workshops and camps, performances and recruiting events.
Andai's passion and life's work began with the gift of a toy violin.
"I showed interest in my new toy resulting in my parents enrolling me into group classes. Later I started taking private lessons, joined several youth orchestras and began winning violin competitions," said Andai. "My life was going hand-in-hand with my enthusiasm for music."
He earned a Bachelor of Music degree from Lynn University Conservatory of Music in Florida, both his Master of Music and Professional Studies degrees from the Manhattan School of Music's Orchestral Program where he studied with the New York Philharmonic's concertmaster Glenn Dicterow. His doctorate degree is from the University of Miami.
"Music speaks to the world in so many ways. It is an international language that requires us to use both sides of our brain to express emotion, use logic and enhance awareness of our surroundings - all this develops discipline and character," Andai said.
At UTPA, Andai teaches the applied instrument course primarily to performance or music education majors, who are required to perform recitals. He said he wants students to leave his studio brighter than when they came in and be ready to handle any challenge or opportunity that comes their way.
"The class is an intensive one-on-one hour of instruction, critique, emotions, and technicalities that are experienced on a weekly basis. I try to get into the human psyche and learn who they are as people to help me cater the lessons to their specific needs," he said. "I tell my students to think of me more as a personal trainer, since they are the ones that have to lift those weights or in this case, practice. I try to tap into their enthusiasm and give them the tools they need to play the pieces they are performing."
Andai's UTPA colleague Joel G. Pagán, associate professor of viola and violin, first met Andai eight years ago while both were performing in a music festival in Italy. They have performed in many international venues and stateside since then and taught master classes together. Pagán calls Andai an outstanding addition to the music department and the Rio Grande Valley.
"I can already notice the positive impact he has made on our students. In our studio classes it is evident that his teaching is raising the level of the students," said Pagán, who will perform with Andai in a chamber musical recital in January and a duo recital in March.
Andai's student Orlando DeLeon, a sophomore music education major from Edinburg, said he looked up Andai's biography on the Internet when he heard he was going to be teaching at UTPA.
"His bio was exceptionally amazing. To work with him, I felt was going to be an absolute honor," said DeLeon, a violinist with UT Pan American's award-winning Mariachi Aztlán.
However, DeLeon said because of Andai's stellar reputation for musicianship, he was a little frightened as to what his lessons would be like.
"Luckily, he is a really cool person and an awesome teacher," said DeLeon. "He goes in depth and explains to us to not just read a bunch of black notes on a piece of paper but to be a musician. He taught me some new techniques regarding practice and I am a bit more confident now in how I am playing. He is our personal trainer."
Andai said before a student plays a piece by any composer, he wants them to consider what the composer was possibly thinking, and in what era it was written, to be able to bring the most informed performance to the public while expressing their interpretations honestly.
"Every musician has a right to express himself. I heard a rap song not long ago that included a portion of Brahms' violin concerto," he said.
Andai said he tries to stay open-minded when it comes to music.
"There are moments when I want to listen to Bach and other moments it's Billy Joel. It really depends on my mood," he said.
Andai describes music as a rewarding profession while recognizing the constant hard work required to continue growing.
"It just never stops; we are perfectionists. There is something special about music that transcends us to another reality. It allows us to focus our energy on creating beauty and peace for our world," he said.
Read more about Andai and hear him perform at his website www.danielandai.com.
Go to the Department of Music website to learn more about the music programs at UTPA.