MEET OUR GRADUATES: Assel Sat’s Love of Music is Truly International

Assel with her clarinet at RIC

“These recognitions make me feel very happy and proud of myself.” — Assel Sat

Last winter, Assel Sat was awarded first place at the prestigious Crescendo International Music Competition at Carnegie Hall in New York, a youth music competition held annually since 2007.  A 23-year-old international student from Kazakhstan, Sat is studying music at Rhode Island College, majoring in clarinet performance with piano as her second instrument. In addition to the top spot at Crescendo, Sat also took second place at the Charleston International Music Competition in South Carolina, for which she participated with an online performance. (Watch here.) 

“First place winners are given a chance to perform at the Carnegie Hall, which is extremely important and a big accomplishment. Many musicians and artists dream of performing on that magnificent stage,” she explains. “I was very excited and nervous at the same time; I was about to make my dream come true.”

That’s just the tip of the iceberg for the spoils of her victory. There is also a special prize that comes with it: an invitation for Sat to perform in five different cities in Italy, representing the United States as a clarinetist this coming summer. “I am looking forward to it,” she says. “These recognitions make me feel very happy and proud of myself.”

Sat’s face lights up when she mentions how satisfying it was to share the good news with her classmates, teachers and family. “My classmates were surprised, but also did not doubt that I could win this big competition, as they have been witnesses of the improvements of my skills for the past four years. I must say that the students and teachers of the music department are very supportive and they are truly your biggest fans,” she recalls. “My parents and brother were fascinated, proud and happy when they heard the news, because they understand what an honor it is to perform at Carnegie Hall.”

It’s more than just love and pride that come from her family. Her inclination and commitment towards music were inspired by her father, who has shared his own love of music with Sat since she was a little girl. “My father is an artist himself, and he always felt inspired by musicians and their creations. He noticed that I had musical abilities, like pitch and rhythm accuracy, and that I was musically inclined.” She adds, “When I was six, he enrolled me into the ‘Music Specialized School for Gifted Children.’” 

Assel in front of Sapinsley Hall at RIC

In order to come to RIC as an international student Sat had to submit performances to the Department of Music for review. When they noticed her musical abilities and talent, she was not just accepted into the program, but received a full Forman Special Talent Scholarship. She also later earned a Miranda Family Scholarship.

“I started thinking of studying abroad since my freshman year in high school, because I wanted to experience different musical styles and expand my knowledge,” she says. 

Sat praises and thanks all her professors at RIC who have supported her throughout this four-year journey. “My clarinet professor Ian Greitzer has been guiding, supporting and motivating me for the past four years, for which I am truly thankful.” She adds, “Everyone in the Music Department is so supportive of each other, and genuinely happy for you. Thanks to those around me, my experience at RIC was great. It will forever have a special place in my heart.” 

After commencement on May 14, Sat plans to spend a year teaching children how to play the clarinet and piano, and at the same time audition for orchestras and ensembles. “I see myself teaching and helping younger musicians to find their way in music,” she says. “I realize that there are younger students who didn’t get to be part of a strong music program or just didn’t have the opportunity. I would love to be the person who could guide them and help them, just share with them what I know.”