Finding joy in North Idaho

Recital to raise funds for local teacher seeking artist visa

By Lyndsie Kiebert
Reader Staff

Bianca d’Avila do Prado fell in love with Sandpoint before she moved here. 

She visited in December 2020 to meet with instructors at the Suzuki String Academy and, by January, she was living in North Idaho, leaning into her new role as a local cello instructor.

Now, with 20 students in Sandpoint and a passion for spreading her love of the cello even further throughout the community, d’Aliva do Prado is determined to stick around. To do that, the Brazilian cellist needs an artist visa — specifically, a U.S. work visa granted to individuals with “extraordinary ability in the arts,” according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Cellist Bianca d’Avila do Prado and pianist Simon Pranaitis will play the Heartwood Center July 28. Courtesy photo.

“I could not imagine our cello program would grow so fast, and still with so much potential to grow,” she said. “It’s a wonderful cello community. I’m so proud to see my students playing with their hearts and working consistently to improve their musicality and technique. My students are my friends and my daily inspiration. I can’t imagine having to leave the United States and not have them as part of my day-to-day life.”

While the Optional Practical Training program that d’Avila do Prado has been working under is about to expire, she is not yet ready to leave the States. Aside from her work at the Suzuki String Academy, she also works with students at the Sandpoint Christian School and, in the fall, the University of Idaho.

In an effort to raise the $9,000 necessary to pay for fees attached to the visa process, d’Avila do Prado — with help from friends and colleagues — is launching a fundraising effort, including a recital at the Heartwood Center (615 Oak St.) on Wednesday, July 28 at 7 p.m. The performance, titled “Songs of Joy and Hope,” will feature d’Avila do Prado on the cello and Simon Pranaitis, another Suzuki String Academy instructor, on the piano.

“I’m very grateful Simon promptly accepted the invitation to join me in playing this challenging but delightful repertoire,” d’Avila do Prado said.

At 12 years old, d’Avila do Prado first attended a cello recital.

“There were no cello players or teachers in the town where I grew up,” she said. “I just couldn’t believe how beautiful that sound was, and I knew I wanted to learn it at that moment.”

After three years of asking her mom to let her learn the cello, “she finally thought I was old enough to travel one hour in a bus — with a cello — to take lessons,” d’Avila do Prado recalled. She already had experience teaching music, but in her journey learning to play the cello, d’Avila do Prado said she became certain that one day, she would be a cello instructor.

Based on the dedicated following of both children and adults she’s been able to collect as students over the past six months in Sandpoint, it appears that the teacher found her calling.

“Aside from being a talented instructor, she provides such an incredible gift to the community through her music,” said Jame Davis, one of d’Avila do Prado’s adult cello students, in a statement attached to the GoFundMe Davis launched in her instructor’s honor. “We are blessed to have Bianca in our town.”

Through both teaching and performing at local venues, d’Avila do Prado said she feels as though she is continuing the cycle of inspiration she experienced in her childhood.

“I’m happy to be able to teach and also have opportunities to perform in town,” she said of Sandpoint, “because the same way I felt inspired to learn watching that cellist when I was 12, I believe I can be an inspiration to my current students and to a new generation of young musicians.”

Her Heartwood Center performance on July 28 will be another chance to show young musicians what is possible.

“I chose my favorite songs to share and I hope they will bring joy, hope and inspiration for the students, families and the community,” she said. “Music is powerful, and I know by teaching music I’m changing lives. I’m so grateful for all the beautiful musical experiences I’m having in Idaho and I hope I can have the support of the community to be able to continue my musical journey here.”

Buy tickets to “Songs of Joy and Hope” at Suzuki String Academy, Pend d’Oreille Winery and at the door the day of the performance. Tickets are $20 for the general public and $10 for Suzuki String Academy students and their families. Those interested in supporting d’Avila do Prado’s efforts to obtain an artist visa can donate to her GoFundMe at gofundme.com/f/help-bianca-to-get-her-visa-stay-in-sandpoint, attend the recital or book her to play a private event. Contact her at 309-750-5707 or [email protected] Learn more at sites.google.com/view/biancacellist.

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