In between classes, you won’t find Eric Piasecki, ’11, procrastinating in Boatwright Library’s café or casually sitting in the dining hall—but rather looking over his latest sheet music before sprinting off to a medical humanities or Spanish class.

One of the winners of this year’s UR Concerto/Vocal Competition, Piasecki, a baritone, has been singing since the age of 8 when his Catholic elementary school music teacher asked him to cantor for Mass.

Shortly thereafter, he began voice lessons with his first voice teacher, and at 10 years old, he auditioned for and was accepted into the Philadelphia Boys’ Choir—which he says started his singing career.

Since then, he has been a member of a wide variety of honors choirs, ensembles and school musicals, including a group called Chester County Voices Abroad (CCVA).

“I'm a fairly laidback and quiet person—until you get to know me,” Piasecki said, “so music has always been my way of being larger than life. Music allows you to be who you want to be and feel how you want to feel.”

Since a young age, Piasecki has also been involved in community service. Specifically, he has volunteered at free clinics and currently works with Spanish professor Carlos Valencia in the community.

Back in Pennsylvania, Piasecki said the director of a local free clinic inspired him to take the cultural experience and language ability he’d gained from his musical tours and apply it to helping the needy.

“From the time I was 14 or 15, I began translating for working class, uninsured, Hispanic patients at the clinic,” he said. “It was at that point that I fell in love with the medical field.”

Although Piasecki’s two passions are seemingly quite different, he said he found that his musical experiences made him that much better as an interpreter. Between the cultural experiences music has provided him and the fact that musicians are trained to listen closely and convey meaning accurately, he has found that he can communicate well with both patients and physicians.

In addition to translating, Piasecki’s singing has also taken him around the world, sometimes combining his singing and foreign language experiences.

While a member of the Philadelphia Boys’ Choir, Piasecki traveled to China, Korea, France, Italy and Cuba. As a member of the CCVA he traveled to Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, France, Italy, Austria and Spain.

“China definitely opened my eyes to the fact that a global society, much larger than what I had ever known, existed,” Piasecki said. “It was the first time that black dot on a world map turned into people, strange architecture and foreign languages. Each experience from that point on changed me.

“By the time I went to Cuba, I think I was mature enough to really glean all I could from the cultural experience. When you walk down a street and people pass you in cars from the ’60s, when you shake people's hands and feel the hours of labor they put into making sure their family has enough food on the table by the calluses on their palms, it really changes the way you view life. The Cubans, despite their lack of great monetary wealth, are extremely rich in a currency of kindness, compassion and respect for their fellow man.”

While at the University of Richmond, Piasecki has also traveled to Costa Rica with Mike Davison and the UR Jazz Ensemble. Serving as a translator and a vocalist, Piasecki laughed as he remembered how Davison first invited him to come along.

“I was humming jazz tunes in the hall and Dr. Davison passed by, stopped me,  told me I was a great opera singer and asked if by chance I was humming jazz,” he said.
Davison then asked Piasecki to join the group in Costa Rica—bringing together Piasecki’s passions once again.

Piasecki taught music classes at the Harmony School in Pochete Beach, a non-profit school of music in Costa Rica where many children walked five miles for lessons and had a limited array of donated instruments on which to play. Piasecki said that being around kids who may not have ever seen a bass or a trumpet—and then being able to teach them about jazz—was a surreal experience.

“Being able to help people is really important to me,” he said. “I’ve definitely learned throughout my course of study at Richmond that whether it’s teaching private lessons to underprivileged kids or translating for people, you can use any gift or talent that you have to make a difference in someone else’s life.”

Furthermore, Piasecki said, music and medicine both have the power to heal.

“I want to enter a direct-entry nurse practitioner program, hopefully at a university where I can incorporate some bilingual medical studies,” Piasecki said. “Ideally I’d like to get involved with indigent care, maybe splitting my time between the ER and family care and free clinic work.

“I chose to incorporate nursing into my graduate studies, as opposed to going to medical school, because I think the training is more conducive to being there with the patient. A nurse practitioner’s training involves educating the patient and helping them to better themselves, and I think that’s really important.”

Piasecki said that whether he ends up singing lullabies in the pediatric ward or giving voice lessons on the side, music will always be a part of his life.