Mexican piano performance student finds welcoming home for family in Pittsburg

Isaac Hernandez, a gifted pianist from Mexico, was looking for a place to earn a master’s degree in piano performance. His checklist included finding a solid academic program with a skilled professor, and finding a safe, welcoming community for not just him, but his wife and young son. 

They found what they were looking for in Pittsburg State University and the community of Pittsburg.  

“It’s kind of hard to go to another place,” Isaac said, who moved here this semester with his wife, Frida Herrera, and their son Emiliano, or “Emi.” “Especially another country with another language and maybe different cultures or traditions. Being here, we really feel like we are not too far from our home. We are having a really great experience with all people.”  

Isaac’s decision to choose Pittsburg State came after reading about Professor of Music Reena Natenburg, while exploring various university options.  

“I was really enchanted about her way to teach and the way that she had played in different places around the world, not just here,” Hernandez said. “I also read about her and watched some videos. That was probably the main reason that I chose Pitt State.”  

After hearing about university's renowned music program, the family focused on other aspects of Pittsburg that would be suitable for raising a son.  

“We were talking as a family about the city,” Hernandez said. “We are from Mexico City, that is a really huge city. So, we really wanted to be in a more calm and secure place, because in Mexico City it’s a little dangerous to go outside… so that’s why we really like Pittsburg.”  

Throughout the process of preparing to move to Pittsburg, Hernandez said the family printed out pictures of and Pittsburg State and Pittsburg in various seasons and pined them to a board to look at.  

This added to the excitement of the move and the opportunities that lay ahead.  

“We really wanted to come here, all of us,” Hernandez said. “For Emi, it’s a really good experience to learn another language since he’s a little kid, and for us it’s also a good experience.”  

Once the family arrived, they quickly found a sense of community and felt that Pittsburg and Pitt State was the right place for the family as a whole. Herrera began taking classes in PSU’s Intensive English Program (IEP) and Emi began the third grade at a local elementary school.  

Isaac jumped in with both feet, starting a small international choir — perhaps Pittsburg State’s first — that meets for rehearsals twice a week and is comprised of non-music students from Brazil, France, Paraguay, and Peru. 

He also has already competed in a collegiate state piano competition, winning first place at the master’s/doctorate level for his performances of “Danza Argentina No. 3” by Alberto Ginastera and “Chapelle of Guillaume Tell” by Liszt.  

“Now I feel part of the university and the city… for us is like feeling really part of the community,” Herrera said. “When we first came, we thought it was mainly for Isaac, but now we feel part of here. Emi and I can come here for all events. It’s awesome to meet people from other countries or from other states in the U.S.A.”  

Herrera said she feels grateful for their entire experience in Pittsburg so far.  

“I’m so happy and grateful for this opportunity and for the people,” she said. “I’m really grateful for the IEP program, because I didn’t speak English, and the teachers are very friendly and compassionate with me and teach very good because I understand all of them. At Emi’s school, too, they are very kind.”

Learn more:

International Programs & Services

Music Department

Intensive English Program