UMSL senior Daniel Kuehler

Daniel Kuehler prepares for his performance with the University Orchestra. Kuehler won the university’s Concerto Competition on 2011 and 2013. (Photo by August Jennewein)

When Daniel Kuehler enrolled at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, he wasn’t expecting to major in music.

After a childhood spent studying piano, Kuehler started off as a biology major, planning for a career in medicine. Being a doctor would offer more job security than being a professional musician would, he thought. But in his first week of school, he knew after his first piano lesson with Alla Voskoboynikova that his life would be at the keys, rather than in a white coat.

“I realized there was no way I could turn my back on music because music had always been there since I was five years old,” he said. “That is what has carried me through my entire life. I changed my major and never once regretted that decision.”

He’s since become a bright star in UMSL’s prestigious piano program. He won UMSL’s concerto competition in 2011 and 2013. In 2013, he also won first place in piano in the upper division of the Missouri Music Teachers Association competition.

“His attention to every musical detail, hard work every day, extending his knowledge about music in general and huge performing experience brought him to a very competitive level,” said Voskoboynikova, teaching associate professor of music. “It’s been a thrilling experience for me as Daniel’s teacher to see his blossoming, and I am absolutely convinced that he is only at the beginning of his exciting career and many things are still to come.”

Kuehler, who is also a student in the Pierre Laclede Honors College, performed Wednesday with the University Orchestra at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center. Cellist Grant Riew, winner of the high school division, also performed. Riew is a student at John Burroughs School.

Wednesday’s concert included the first movement of Johannes Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor. Brahms composed the work to express his own life story shortly after his friend, composer Robert Schumann, attempted suicide.

“It’s so stormy and so passionate,” Kuehler said. “When the piano comes in, it’s as if Brahms himself is speaking to the audience in a soliloquy.”

After graduating in May, Kuehler plans to attend graduate school to earn masters and doctorate degrees in the music field and hopes to teach at the university level. In addition to practicing and performing at UMSL, he’s also the choir director for St. Peter Catholic Church in Kirkwood, Mo.

Kuehler will give his final major performance as an UMSL student in his senior recital on May 8. That performance will include a performance of Modest Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.” Each movement of that composition is inspired by a different work of art, which helps to inspire Kuehler’s playing.

“You can just grow as a person with that kind of piece,” Kuehler said. “I don’t necessarily think of notes anymore. You get to rise to a whole other level of playing.”

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