International Voices: Victoria Gautto ’24 Discovers Endless Possibilities While Following Her Dreams

When she was six-years-old, Victoria Gautto, ’24, was walking around Canoas, Brazil with her family as they heard an array of winds, chimes, and basses. Following the sounds, they found a local social project with a mission to help people from all walks of life have the opportunity to learn how to play an instrument. Music ran in Gautto’s family, as her father sang and played guitar in a band, and her younger sister participated in marching bands, so Gautto’s lifelong pursuit of music gradually began. Her journey to Azusa Pacific University to earn her was one of perseverance, faith, and diligence toward her craft as a clarinet player.

Gautto overcame many challenges while following her dreams. One such instance came when she was 16, auditioning for a conservatory. As her fingers trembled while getting ready to perform, a piece of her clarinet fell apart, and she thought her chances were ruined. But her evaluator kindly said, “Don’t worry, I want to hear you play,” while handing her his own clarinet. Gautto was accepted into the school and studied clarinet professionally for two years. In high school, she studied as hard as she could and passed all the exams she needed to enter The Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, where she earned a BA in Music with an emphasis in woodwinds.

After graduating in 2018, many of Gautto’s peers began traveling the world, and she dreamed of studying in Los Angeles or New York. She spent nearly all of 2019 working any job she could get in order to save up for future travels. She was in a professional wind ensemble orchestra and gave private clarinet lessons. By 2020, she had saved enough money to come to the U.S., but plans changed due to the pandemic, and she had to use her funds toward different expenses. “I realized that whether I liked it or not, this pandemic is happening. There was nothing I could do about it, so I used every bit of time to practice,” she said. Not only did she hone her craft as a clarinet player, but she studied English rigorously.

“Everyday I woke up at 7 a.m., studied English for 4 hours, and practiced clarinet for 3 hours,” she said. “Some people didn’t understand why I worked so hard when we couldn’t see the end in sight. I told them, ‘when it ends, I will be ready.’”

One of Gautto’s classmates from her undergraduate years went on to APU for his Master’s, studying under applied instructor Michele Zukovsky, who was a clarinetist in the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra for more than 50 years. Gautto delved into Zukovsky’s work, admiring her musical skills and dreaming of being in one of her classes. She sent Zukovsky an email expressing her interest in APU. After meeting each other virtually, Zukovsky guided Gautto through the admissions process. When she received a scholarship, Gautto was overjoyed to be able to study in California, as her biggest dream came true.

Gautto began her studies at APU in Fall 2022. At first, she was afraid she wouldn’t be able to make friends or speak English well. But the professors and fellow music students dispelled her fears, approaching her with kindness and openness to hear what she had to say. Gautto found a community of Latin American students who encouraged her to speak and be okay with making mistakes and learning from them.

“I can’t imagine my experience at APU without the people who made it as welcoming as it was, and I couldn’t be more thankful for them,” she said.

Gautto’s experience in APU’s orchestra while learning from Zukovsky, was one of many dreams to come true throughout her journey. She enjoys getting to learn and work with David Chang, MM, this year. Gautto hopes to earn her doctorate and become a professor someday.

An aspect of Brazilian culture that Gautto strives to embrace in her career and personal life is a spirit of happiness that is common throughout the country. “We find joy in everything, smile and laugh even when we're struggling, and sing and dance despite hard times,” she said.

Looking back on her journey, Gautto is grateful for her family’s support through all circumstances. They have always cheered for her, even from a different continent, have encouraged her in moments of despair, and sacrificed to make her dreams possible. “There were times when I thought my mom didn’t want me to come to the U.S. because she said it would be hard,” she said, “but I realize now she was sad to watch me leave. But she supported me anyway.”

The events in Gautto’s life have oftentimes felt surreal to her, as moments of doubt were overcome with resilience, and discouragement was met with perseverance. By following the dreams written on her heart like a compass guiding her direction, she’s discovered a world of possibilities. Through persistence, passion, and belief in herself, there is no doubt that wherever Gautto enters after her time at APU, she will find her way by spreading joy and pursuing excellence.