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A Name that Foretold Praise

Mohammad Salman '17, MLA in Vocal Studies  '19Among the notable aspects of Iran-born Mohammad Salman, BA in Music ’17 and MLA in Vocal Studies ’19, is the less common ending of his first name. Instead of “-ed,” signifying someone who praises others, his name finishes with “-ad” and identifies one who is the subject of praise.

Indeed, the singer’s rich, resonant voice is praiseworthy. So much so that it has earned him acceptance into the highly selective Doctorate of Musical Arts voice performance program at the University of Houston.

Dr. Brady Knapp, associate professor and chair of Music at UST, said, “I’ve taught on the university level for more than 20 years, and Mohammad is one of the top 5%. I had an instinct when I first met him, and I was right. It felt like God threw us together on a path, and I couldn’t be prouder of him and his success.”

A Remarkable Memory of a Wretched “Normal”

Salman’s journey to his now-bright future began in difficulty. He was born in Tehran in 1979, the year of the Islamic revolution.

Salman said, “It destroyed Iran. The new regime was a cruel one, and the country entered into war with Iraq a year later. Many thousands of people died.”

He vividly remembers his story taking another confusing and painful turn when he was merely three years old, and his father suffered a sudden, fatal heart attack. After family infighting and courtroom drama, he and his siblings were not allowed to remain with their mother. Instead, they were raised by his grandparents.

The playground he recounts exploring as a very young boy is one that makes listeners shudder.

“One of our entertainments during war was sitting on rooftops watching rockets hit the city,” Salman remembered. “Today, that seems unfortunate and sad, but it was life. I was not afraid. It was all that I knew. Grownups were scared, but it was like a normal game for me, watching airplanes and bombs and running for shelter.”

A Path That Found Him

(middle in red) Mohammad Salman MLA in Vocal Studies 19He enjoyed music and learned to play the flute when he was 11. But his few gigs as a professional teenaged musician were further curtailed by the need to earn money, which led him to a successful job in auto parts sales.

Then he happened to discover a videocassette of the popular operatic singing group known as The Three Tenors. It was a life-altering find.

“I found out that I loved singing,” Salman said. “I couldn’t find any teachers, so I imitated the cassette. I imitated tenors and continued working in my auto parts business.”

Later, a music school opened just long enough for Salman to earn an associate degree in music there. The academic oasis closed with the onset of a new wave of protests and violent oppression.

Married by then, Salman and his wife began their plans to leave the repressive country. In 2013, both would be in Houston, learning English, finding support and experiencing hope.

UST’s reputation drew the Salman’s here. Recognized for welcoming students from international backgrounds and different faiths, inclusion and diversity permeate the ethos of the UST campus.

Mohammad Discovers His Real Voice

As a transfer student under the expert guidance of Dr. Knapp, Salman made the surprise discovery that he is a bass-baritone, not a tenor. His pitch needed to change, so he worked hard.

Salman said, “It takes daily dedication to be a singer. If you even miss a day, you can lose ground. Singers are vocal athletes.”

He loves Houston and the fact that Houston Grand Opera is here. Moreover, Salman credits UST with preparing him for ultimate success in the future.

“UST provides its voice majors with many performing opportunities that just don’t happen at bigger schools,” Salman said. “I got to develop my talent for the next level because of this advantage at UST. And of course, The University’s outstanding music teachers were priceless help for my success.”

With his new voice, Salman is making new memories, and will undoubtedly continue to live up to his first name.

For information on UST’s Music programs, click here.

At his graduation ceremony on December 13 at Smart Financial Centre in Sugar Land, Salman with be among 398 undergraduates and 436 graduates from the classes of Winter 2019, May 2020, Summer 2020 and Winter 2020.

A Message from Mohammad Salman