Behind the major with Diego Romero: A musician’s journey

Photo provided by Diego Romero

Diego Romero is a junior music performance major at West Texas A&M University, with a double emphasis in flute and piano. It takes some people a lifetime to find their passion, but Romero found his at the age of six.

“My mom gave me this little Panasonic radio and I tuned it into the classical station,” Romero said. “I remember my imagination just took off from that moment.”

The first instrument Romero learned to play was piano. In seventh grade, he decided to join the band at his school, which he continued through his high school years.

Romero has always admired the flute, but he played clarinet during his time in band. He ended up with the clarinet because he was afraid of people judging him for playing flute.

“My [band] director made somewhat of a sexist comment, saying that, ‘Oh, flute? You want to, like, play the girl’s instrument and be with all the girls.’” Romero said. “There was this guy who had a clarinet, so I was just like, ‘I’ll just play whatever he has in his hand.’ I didn’t even know what it was.”

This negative experience taught Romero a lesson that he still values.

“It taught me to be strong in my character and my goals,” Romero said. “And to not let any comment get to me like that.”

Although Romero was a clarinetist in band, he did not abandon his dream of playing flute. His sister joined band as well and chose to play the flute so Romero would have an instrument to practice with.

Until his senior year of high school, Romero was completely self-taught on flute, learning primarily by ear.

In his senior year of high school, he participated in the Texas State Solo-Ensemble Contest and met Professor Blackburn, who teaches flute at WT. Romero started taking flute lessons with Professor Blackburn that same year.

“It was kind of a rough path at first because, as a self-taught player, you can teach yourself bad habits,” Romero said. “It was a lot of undoing [bad habits] once I came to college and lots of hard work.”

Romero started out as just a flute emphasis, but recently decided to add a piano emphasis. He feels that flute and piano bring him a good balance as a musician because they both have something the other doesn’t. For piano, Romero most admires the range and beauty of the repertoire for this instrument.

Romero playing piano at his sophomore recital on April 21, 2021. Photo provided by Diego Romero

When asked about his favorite experience in the music program thus far, Romero mentioned his sophomore recital. Music performance majors are required to do a senior recital, but recitals in the other years are optional. Romero chose to do a sophomore recital because he wanted to have that experience and share it with others. There was a lot of work that went into choosing repertoire, practicing and rehearsing, but it was a labor of love.

“Everything that went into it just made me realize that this is exactly what I’m meant to do,” Romero said. “It didn’t seem like work; it was just fun.”

Romero is currently taking a semester off, but it has been a beneficial break for him. He plans to resume his course of study in Fall 2022.

“It’s kind of scary sometimes to think of taking a break,” Romero said. “But I knew that, for me, it was going to help me continue. I have learned to work with setting boundaries, to tell myself when it’s okay and when it’s too much.”

One thing is sure: music will always play a key role in Romero’s life.

“Music has always been like a best friend for me,” Romero said. “I don’t see myself without it ever.”