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Jorge Padilla '24

For Jorge Padilla '24, music is a calling, one that he found during his time at Swarthmore. An opera singer, performer, and producer of original music, Padilla has spent the past four years discovering and cultivating his artistic talents and the supportive community within the Lang Music Building has been crucial in shaping this journey. 

Growing up in Philadelphia, Padilla was not exposed to music performance until his junior year of high school, when a friend made him aware of an a capella group and encouraged him to participate. “That was the very first time I was actually in a group making music and reading sheet music,” Padilla recalls. Recognizing his emerging talent, Padilla’s a cappella director encouraged him to explore his potential. During his senior year of high school, in addition to singing with his school’s chorus and helping with other choral ensembles, he auditioned successfully for the Philadelphia All City Choir and was selected to perform a solo for their concert. 

At the time, Padilla’s relationship with music making had only just begun, and he had no idea what would become of it following high school. But he did have his eyes on Swarthmore after his brother, Angel Padilla ’18, became the first in their family to attend college. “That was my introduction to what college was like,” Padilla recounts, expressing his love for Swarthmore’s campus, proximity to home, and “reputation for being academically rigorous and transformative.”

Swarthmore was indeed transformative for Padilla. A Peace and Conflict Studies major and Music and Environmental Studies double minor, he found purpose and passion at the intersection of these disciplines. During his first year, Padilla began experimenting with music production and songwriting. The first song he released, “Where Will We Go?,” was a final project for his Religion and Ecology class. According to Padilla, it “draws on all three fields of study in that it addresses humankind’s negative impact on the planet through a focus on climate change and war . . . the song poses the question, ‘Where will we go when we bring about the end of our planet,’ and pushes us to think of ways we can become better stewards of the land while also highlighting the atrocities of war and the need for peace for all life on Earth.” Since then, Padilla has released another song, titled “Drift Away,” and is in the midst of writing and producing yet another for his senior project. 

As Padilla’s college journey progressed, “music called to me more and more.” He found a community within the Swarthmore Chorus and Garnet Singers; “there’s something special about performing with a large group of musicians, and it’s so rewarding to perform at concerts.” Singing the Libera me baritone solo for the Chorus performance of Faure’s Requiem in D minor was a particular highlight, and he will feature as a soloist once again for Garnet Singers in their concert this spring. 

Solo singing has been central to Padilla’s musical journey at Swarthmore. Through the Music 48 (Individual Music Instruction) program, he met his voice teacher and mentor, Lara Nie, and vocal coach Debra Scurto-Davis. “Both of them started guiding me on this path of vocal performance, specifically opera. I barely knew anything about classical music and opera . . . working with them was a big push.” Padilla certainly rose to the occasion – in the words of Scurto-Davis, his rare combination of talent and “unbelievable work ethic” is “truly special; he has the potential to do anything in this world as a singer that he wants to do.”

Thanks to funding from Swarthmore Music, Padilla was able to explore the world as a singer. Last summer, he traveled to Greece to attend a music summer program at the American College of Thessaloniki, where he “really fell in love with vocal performance.” This experience involved learning and performing in a semi-staged opera production, and was an amazing opportunity of cultural immersion, community-building with fellow musicians from all around the world, and growth from inspiring feedback.

Padilla returned to campus in the fall of his senior year equipped with a deeper understanding of different elements of operatic acting and performance. This was exactly what he needed to play the part of Figaro in a semi-staged production of the second act finale of Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, sponsored by the Fetter Chamber Music Program. “It was one of the most memorable, amazing highlights that I have of my time at Swarthmore; it was so spectacular.”

Looking ahead, Padilla will take a year off following graduation to apply to music conservatory programs. “I plan to continue building my repertoire and honing my vocal technique with Lara.” He also intends to make more space for his original music. “Music is a calling and a dream of mine that I want to pursue,” Padilla asserts, while acknowledging the risk that comes with such a career choice. “Performance is a creative endeavor, and in today’s society, the arts aren’t necessarily appreciated or accessible, and it’s not a conventional career path.” Nonetheless, he believes that “the arts are very powerful and meaningful,” and as a “first-generation, low-income student who had to overcome lots of hardships growing up,” he hopes to serve as an inspiration for others with similar backgrounds to follow their artistic passions.  

Padilla looks forward to sharing this passion with the Swarthmore community at his upcoming senior recital. Accompanied by Debra Scurto-Davis, he will sing 19 songs in total, showcasing the works of Romantic composers in 4 different languages (English, German, French, and Italian). The first half will consist of pieces by Felix Mendelssohn, Franz Schubert, Reynaldo Hahn, and Paolo Tosti, and for the second half, Padilla will perform the full cycle of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Songs of Travel

“I’m so hyped and terrified; the recital is such an important experience as someone who wants to go into vocal performance and do it for a living. It’s so meaningful to me because it’s the culminating project that I will leave Swarthmore with,” Padilla reflects. “When I think about my journey here I also think of the struggles and great tribulations that I’ve had to overcome to get to where I am, so this performance is a sort of statement that ‘Here I am, I’ve found what I really want to do with my life, and here I am presenting that to you as I enter this next chapter.’”

Jorge Padilla’s senior recital will be held on Sunday, April 28 at 3 p.m. in Lang Concert Hall, is free and open to the public. All are welcome to attend and experience this special occasion. 


Favorite music course at Swarthmore: ‘Music and War’ with Professor Barbara Milewski, who actually introduced me to Western opera through her ‘Zombie Art: Why Opera Will Never Die’ course.

Favorite music-making experience at Swarthmore: Figaro! 

What you’ll miss most about Swarthmore: The social aspect: making memories with friends and faculty. That’s part of the beauty of Swarthmore — you can establish great bonds with faculty too, and I’ll miss that a lot. 

What sound or noise do you love: Nature!

What sound or noise do you hate: Loud mechanical noises; construction and loud engines.

What’s the last song/piece you played on your phone: “Take It On the Run” by REO Speedwagon