Constant reinvention

da CostaAcclaimed classical guitarist, lawyer, diplomat and former beauty pageant contestant Daiana Ferreira da Costa talks about the discipline and thought behind a successful career in the arts and beyond.  

By Jake Stepansky ‘17

As with many Harvard students, I’m a busy bee – juggling coursework, extracurricular activities and work while attempting to sleep, eat and brush my teeth. Daiana Ferreira da Costa is a far busier bee – all while maintaining an exuberant warmth that makes it clear that she is immensely passionate about all of her pursuits. Da Costa speaks five languages – Spanish, Guarani, English, Portuguese, French, Italian and some Chinese – and says the fluency helps her reach audiences through music and diplomacy. She is also an acclaimed classical guitarist, a fearless lawyer, a former Miss Paraguay, and a Cultural and Tourist Ambassador for the government of Paraguay, her native country. In a free event co-sponsored by Learning From Performers and Lamont Library, da Costa will perform selections from the classical guitar repertoire and discuss her career 1 p.m. Friday, March 24 in the Lamont Library Forum Room. Martin Schreiner – the librarian at Lamont – will introduce her at the event. Da Costa and I corresponded about making a career in music and beyond; an edited version of our conversation follows.

Daiana Ferreira da Costa
Daiana Ferreira da Costa

Your background is fascinating. How did you find a way to pursue both music and law?
Thank you very much. It was a big challenge for me. I have been always very meticulous and persistent, and I have never put limits on my dreams. I think the best elements needed to accomplish goals are self-confidence and good organization. Of course, the support of my family and my loved ones has been very important.

Can you give me a taste of what you will be sharing at your lecture-demonstration?
I will be performing the music of the most famous Paraguayan composer for classical guitar, Agustín Barrios. He has been praised around the world for his Latin American folk rhythms, late romantic style and virtuoso compositions. I will be also talking about Paraguayan culture and music management.  

How do you manage to balance the different facets of your life?
It’s all about organization. It’s very important to have goals by day, week, month, and year. To have a list of "things to do" and think about the time that each activity takes (including the time you spend taking a shower, having breakfast, driving to work, parking the car, eating, practicing, exercising). Sports are very important in my life as well – and resting at least 7 to 8 hours. If you leave everything to chance, you will never be able to control your situation. If you can control your routine, you can control your success. If you don’t do it, you will be the only one responsible for your failure. Excellence is just a matter of habit.

What advice do you have for students who want to pursue careers in the performing arts?
You have to be original. Every person is unique and doesn’t need to follow the standard role models. Art is a career of constant reinvention. If you follow someone perhaps you unconsciously are limiting yourself to accomplishing at the same level of the person you admire. But if you reach deep into yourself, you can put no limits to your desires and dreams and perhaps like this, you can go even further.

What role did your education play in making you who you are? Did you have any particularly influential teachers?
Beyond my music education (after I finished in Paraguay, I took courses and master classes around the world), I also finished a Bachelor degree in law in Paraguay and a Master in government degree in Spain. I am finishing an MBA this year, and doing an executive program at the Harvard Kennedy School. Everything I have learned has contributed to building a solid and complete education, which has helped me improve my activities, my vision, and my future goals. It has expanded the areas of work where I can contribute to making a better country and a better world. I have had a lot of influential teachers during my life. The most influential teachers have been the ones that gave the confidence to believe in myself – the ones who taught me values and life experiences – because finally, beyond music, being happy in life and doing what you are good at is what really counts.  

How can arts students make best use of their education?
Art students have to be aware of their power to influence in their community, in their countries and in the world. They have to be well informed about the news in politics, economics, social and cultural areas because we don’t live alone. Our environment is interwoven with these elements. Being a successful artist will depend on how you interpret your present to create a better future.