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Bard College Senior Wins Prestigious Watson Travel Fellowship

Jennifer Wai-Lan Huang
ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.—Bard College senior Jose Agustin Sanchez, from Venezuela, has been awarded the prestigious Thomas J. Watson Foundation 2013–14 Fellowship, which provides for a year of travel and exploration outside the United States. The fellowship offers college graduates of unusual promise a year of independent, purposeful exploration and travel—in international settings new to them—to enhance their capacity for resourcefulness, imagination, openness, and leadership and to foster their humane and effective participation in the world community. Each Watson Fellow receives a grant of $25,000 for 12 months of travel and independent study. This year, more than 700 candidates applied from select private liberal arts colleges and universities across the United States. One hundred and forty-eight finalists were nominated to compete on the national level, from which 40 were selected to become the 45th class of Watson Fellows.

Sanchez is majoring in music composition and conducting. His project, “Sounds of Immortality,” will bring him to China, Vietnam, and India. “As a composer, I struggle every time I sit at the piano: how to express feelings from the reality I am living, how to connect an audience to emotions that words cannot achieve. I strive for the sound of immortality, when a composer is able to capture in his/her music a new idea that can engage different people, different cultures, and in different times,” he says. “I will travel through two musically different parts of Asia, learning more about the culture and exploring the richness of the sound of the folk instruments. My approach will be to use conservatories or music schools as bases, where I will find people that can guide my exploration. The two parts of Asia are China/Taiwan, where there is a strong tradition of string and wind instruments, and Vietnam/India, an immense world of percussive instruments. My music has its roots in strong percussive Latin rhythms and sound, foundations that forge my work with a distinctive voice. The deepened understanding of percussion and rhythms will help me to understand a world of new possibilities.”

Jose Agustin Sanchez was born in San Cristobal, Venezuela, in 1989. At the age of 9 he became part of a social musical program, called El Sistema, as a pianist. During this time, he did a lot of piano playing around his country, winning several competitions. He also studied with influential musicians from Venezuela. At the age of 16, he went to the United Kingdom, Cambridge and Wales, to continue his musical and academic studies. He performed as a pianist in numerous concerts around Europe, and conducted and performed some of his own compositions with the Choir of the Atlantic College of Wales. As a composer, he has done works for chamber music as well as orchestral music. His last symphonic work, Amazónica, for orchestra, choir, and solo baritone, was performed last October in Caracas by the well-known Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela and conducted by Maestro Alfredo Rugeles. It was also sung by the Simón Bolívar National Youth Choir of Venezuela and respected baritone Maestro Gaspar Colón. As a conductor, Sanchez recently had his debut in his country with the Simón Bolívar Symphony of Táchira, where he also had the world premiere of his orchestral work, Lucero Sabanero. Sanchez conducted the Orchestra Teresa Carreño in March. He will also conduct the Symphony Orchestra of Aragua in Cuba in 2013.

Over the past several years, 14 Bard seniors have received Watson fellowships: Daniela Anderson (2012–13), Jeremy Carter-Gordon (2011–12), Tallesin Gilkes-Bower (2010–11), Christopher Herring and David Martin (2008–09) Gabriel Harrell and Kathryn Newman (2007–08); Christophe Chung and Jonathan Helfgott (2006–07); Yishay Garbasz and Nguyen Nguyen (2004–05); Emily McNair and Vincent Valdmanis (2003–04); and Miya Buxton (2002–03). A Watson year provides fellows with an opportunity to test their aspirations, abilities, and perseverance through a personal project that is cultivated on an international scale. Watson Fellows have gone on to become international leaders in their fields, including CEOs of major corporations, college presidents, MacArthur “genius” grant recipients, diplomats, artists, lawyers, doctors, faculty, journalists, and many renowned researchers and innovators.

For further information about the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship Program, visit or contact the foundation at or 212-245-8859.

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About Bard College
Founded in 1860, Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, is an independent, nonsectarian, residential, coeducational college offering a four-year B.A. program in the liberal arts and sciences and a five-year B.A./B.S. degree in economics and finance. The Bard College Conservatory of Music offers a five-year program in which students pursue a dual degree—a B.Music and a B.A. in a field other than music—and offers an M.Music in vocal arts and in conducting. Bard also bestows an M.Music degree at Longy School of Music of Bard College in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Bard and its affiliated institutions also grant the following degrees: A.A. at Bard High School Early College, a public school with campuses in New York City (Manhattan and Queens) and Newark, New Jersey; A.A. and B.A. at Bard College at Simon’s Rock: The Early College, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and through the Bard Prison Initiative at five correctional institutions in New York State; M.A. in curatorial studies, M.S. in economic theory and policy, and M.S. in environmental policy and in climate science and policy at the Annandale campus; M.F.A. and M.A.T. at multiple campuses; M.B.A. in sustainability in New York City; and M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. in the decorative arts, design history, and material culture at the Bard Graduate Center in Manhattan. Internationally, Bard confers dual B.A. degrees at the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences, St. Petersburg State University, Russia (Smolny College); American University of Central Asia in Kyrgyzstan; and Bard College Berlin: A Liberal Arts University; as well as dual B.A. and M.A.T. degrees at Al-Quds University in the West Bank. Bard offers nearly 50 academic programs in four divisions. Total enrollment for Bard College and its affiliates is approximately 5,000 students. The undergraduate College has an enrollment of more than 1,900 and a student-to-faculty ratio of 10:1. 

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This event was last updated on 12-13-2013