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For 2 Colombian musicians, Kansas City has become a place to hone their skills — and call home

José Ramírez and Victor Díaz perform a Colombian pasillo
Christy L'Esperance
José Ramírez and Victor Díaz perform a Colombian pasillo in the Classical KC studio

Violist Victor Diaz and violinist Jose Ramirez stopped by the Classical KC studio to play Colombian music and to talk about life as international music students in Kansas City.

When moving from one country to another, there are bound to be cultural differences: food, language, and social norms seem foreign. The music, however, can be universal.

Violist Victor Díaz and violinist José Ramírez are recent transplants to Kansas City from Colombia, South America. Both are pursuing graduate music studies here: Díaz at Park University and Ramírez at UMKC’s Conservatory.

While the music is familiar, there were unexpected differences between South and North American concert Halls. “In Colombia,” Díaz points out, “audiences are very energetic. So at first I had to get used to a more calm environment. But I found here in Kansas City that people really, really care about music.”

They’ve experienced that Kansas City enthusiasm as performers and teachers. They each are substitutes with the Kansas City Symphony on occasion, and Díaz instructs through String Sprouts KC and Harmony Project KC. “It’s very rewarding to see the change in young musicians," he notes. "Seeing them being more confident and more willing to explore the world — it’s amazing.”

Díaz’s interest in mentoring youth has personal roots. “In elementary school I wasn't doing very well with grades.” Aware of the benefits of classical music for kids, his parents introduced him to the viola. “My grades went up and I found a purpose. It's one of my biggest joys in life to be able to perform for people.”

Ramírez — who is from Medellíin — and Díaz, a Bogotá native, met while playing in the Colombian Youth Orchestra. They toured with the ensemble and occasionally collaborated with Iberacademy, directed by the renowned Colombian violinist Roberto González-Monjas.

Ramírez found inspiration in this high level of orchestral training. He feels fortunate to elevate that training with the Kansas City Symphony. “Every time we go to a rehearsal, it’s like an orchestral masterclass. The sound you’re surrounded by is incredible. You get addicted," he says.

“As an immigrant,” Díaz adds, “I feel fortunate to be able to experience classical music from the perspective of another country. I think that’s very enriching. Regardless of where I end up living in the future, I am always going to be very grateful for Kansas City.”

While visiting the Classical KC studio, Díaz and Ramírez performed Díaz’s own arrangement of "Dilo Otra Vez" ("Say It Again") by Santiago Bernal Montaña. The piece is a traditional Colombian "pasillo," a combination of a European waltz and regional Colombian dance styles.

Kansas City native Christy L’Esperance (pronounced “LESS-per-ahns") started listening to classical music on the Snoopy radio she got for her 4th birthday. Today, as Classical KC’s Community Engagement Specialist and On-Air Host, she enjoys classical music through much better speakers. You can reach Christy at She would love to hear about the ways you keep music in your life.
Kiana Fernandes is an intern for Classical KC.