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The product of a musical family, Dr. Fagner Rocha now passes on the gift of music to his students as director of the ASU Symphony Orchestra.

Growing up in Caxias do Sul, Brazil, the church Rocha’s family attended had an orchestra, and almost all the kids in Sunday School learned an instrument. His parents decided he should learn the violin.

“I wasn’t sure in the beginning,” Rocha said. “I really wanted to learn the guitar because that’s what was cool. So while I kept learning violin, I taught myself to play guitar.”

“I was about 15 when I got serious on the violin,” he added. “I started studying with a new teacher who played in the symphony in town, and he was very good. That got me really interested, and I started practicing a lot, easily 3-4 hours a day.”

Thus began Rocha’s long and winding road that led him 5,300 miles from Brazil to Angelo State and included stints as a professional orchestra musician and two separate treks to Texas Tech University to earn his master’s and doctoral degrees. While finishing his doctorate, an ASU faculty position opened up, and Rocha had finally found his destination.

Since arriving in 2016, Rocha has taken the ASU Symphony Orchestra to new heights, including several uniquely-themed concerts, off-campus performances around San Angelo, and a student trip to the Opera Maya Festival in Mexico. They even produced a YouTube concert video available to the public after campus events were halted due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“ASU is a place where ideas gain life,” Rocha said. “I can go to my boss with the craziest idea, and he will listen. I feel like what I do is well received and is supported by the university. That always gets me excited because I have a million ideas.”

“I want my students to know that hard work pays off. I also want to give them a sense of professionalism.”

- Dr. Fagner Rocha

And his ideas are not reserved for just his ASU students. He and his wife, fellow violinist Emilee Hall-Rocha, started the Concho Valley Youth Orchestra, and he has collaborated with the Hill Country Youth Orchestra, Fredericksburg Community Orchestra, San Angelo and Midland All-City Orchestras and several all-region orchestras.

“I think that music opens a lot of doors in your mind,” Rocha said. “I think musical experiences are very important to people of all ages. I like to provide those types of opportunities, and I just like teaching music, no matter what level.”

Rocha also still loves playing the violin. He performs with the San Angelo Symphony Orchestra, is concertmaster for the Big Spring Symphony, and has played internationally in Brazil, France, Italy, Mexico and Spain.

But his emphasis now is on teaching, and it’s not just music lessons he hopes to pass on to his ASU students.

“I want my students to know that hard work pays off,” Rocha said. “I also want to give them a sense of professionalism. I always tell them that they need to treat their studies as their first full-time job. If they get to that professional level as an undergraduate, then their chances for future success increase dramatically.”