UCA Alumnus Remembered for Raw Talent

Alumnus Juan Salamanca, 24, died following a car accident in Taiwan Sept. 4.

Salamanca, originally from Bogatá, Colombia, graduated spring 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in musical performance. At the time of his death, he was teaching English in Taiwan and had just welcomed his first child, Girasol Salamanca Cheng, with his wife, Chiao Yuan Cheng. He is also survived by his parents, Juan Carlos Salamanca and Patricia Serrano, and brother, Juan Pablo Salamanca Serrano.

“I looked up to him in his musical capabilities because he had a drive to be a great musician,” Tess Hall, UCA alumna and friend of Salamanca, said. “Juan lived life to the fullest, made friends, got out of his comfort zone and treated me like I was his sister.”

Salamanca was previously a member of the Conway Symphony Orchestra, the UCA Symphony Orchestra —where he was the principal bass — and the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. He was talented in playing the bass, double bass and other stringed instruments.

“Juan [was]a motivated and curious person, always interested in different culture[s],” Qinqing Yang, a concertmaster who met Salamanca in the double bass section of the UCA Symphony Orchestra, said. “He was a good leader and was always there for his section whenever they were in need.”

Salamanca made a lasting impression on his professors and instructors who mentored him and looked highly upon his work.

“More than anything, he loved his bass and it seemed that all he wanted was to conquer more repertoire and more heights in his playing,” said viola instructor Tatiana Kotcherguina, who taught Salamanca in the music department.

Salamanca could be seen practicing or listening to music while waiting for rehearsals and was rarely seen in the halls of Snow Fine Arts without an instrument.

“Sometimes I would see him late at night and he would be practicing for his ensembles,” Carlos Udave, who looked up to Salamanca for his kindness and caring personality, said. “Juan offered to help me find a job with free rides to get me there and back home since I didn’t have a car. He never complained about [how busy he was].”

Salamanca, though serious and professional in his performances, wasn’t afraid to make people laugh either.

“Juan was the class clown for sure,” Hall said. “He was a jokester. He called me ‘Number Two’ because when I learned his name I thought he called himself ‘One’ instead of ‘Juan.’ He then nicknamed me ‘Number Two’ and it stuck.”

Outside the performance hall, Salamanca counted on the guidance and support of Steve Lance, a professor in English who taught Juan in Composition I and worked independently with him in his Composition II class while he pursued playing music abroad in China.

“I had to work with him a bit out of class, due to his heavy performance schedule which caused him to miss some classes, but he was certainly worth the effort,” Lance said. “I gladly welcomed him in my class, as I knew very well what a strong, intelligent writer he was.”

Though gone, Salamanca’s peers will continue to remember him for his smile and laughter, as well as for his love for music.

“He was exotic and exuberant, yet kept to himself; loaded with book knowledge, his own life experiences and jokes,” Kotcherguina said. “Juan was always going onward and upward.”

Photo courtesy of Patricia Serrano

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