By Tim Hazel
Despite the current worldwide pandemic, I have received incredible support and positive energy from fans of the Youth Chamber Orchestra, telling me how much they appreciate our high-quality concerts that are not hard on the pocketbook.
I believe that now, as never before, people will require the healing energy that great masterworks provide. San Miguel de Allende is fortunate—in part because of the generosity of the San Miguel Community Foundation—to have the Youth Chamber Orchestra as its own “in-residence” chamber orchestra. Wonderful things are still possible at a time when so many activities have been postponed.
Orchestra members have sent me many emails reinforcing their commitment once Bellas Artes and other cultural performance venues have reopened. The current situation in Mexico has become very difficult for the arts in general. For orchestra members who are attending university faculties of music in cities such as Leon, Guanajuato, and the renowned Celaya Conservatory, restricted social contact means having to study and write exams online. Recital opportunities disappeared overnight in March, with dire consequences for concert artists and ensemble incomes from expected performances.
Despite the odds, we are continuing to communicate and plan additions to our repertoire as a democratic union of diverse talents from all over Mexico. Future audiences can expect to hear works as diverse as Schubert, Fauré, and Sibelius. Britten, Copeland, and Offenbach are also being contemplated.
We have expanded our orchestra membership to 50 musicians, thanks to your enthusiasm and support. I am gratified to report that the orchestra is attracting more and more attention from the concert-going public and pledge to continue to raise funds from voluntary donors and foundations to cover basic expenses, consisting almost entirely of stipends for the young musicians. Our interpretations of the classics have never sounded better. With refinements, such as the addition of concert timpani to our percussion section, our reputation for excellence will continue to grow.
Young professionals now make up about 50 percent of the orchestra membership. They come from Mexican symphony orchestras and leading chamber ensembles. Not only do they enrich our sound, but also they provide mentoring for our exceptional student members. Stringent criteria for our auditions, including full curriculum presentations and exacting live demonstrations have guaranteed that only the best make it through the admissions process.
Part of my job as founder, director, and conductor of the orchestra is to seek solutions to problems that could be detrimental to the career development of these talented, and in some cases, brilliantly gifted young men and women. I truly believe, as do our many fans, that the Youth Chamber Orchestra can represent one of the finest in its genre.
The program gives each musician a “hand up” in life as its members may go on to become part of a professional orchestra anywhere in the world or stay on with the Youth Chamber Orchestra as it grows. Several of the members are already part of other large productions such as the UNAM and Guanajuato Symphonies. All travel from other cities for up to three hours to attend rehearsals and concerts. Others have come from as far away as Mérida in the Yucatán to experience the quality and diversity this unique, all-Mexican collective provides.
Worth noting is that smaller ensembles such as quartets, made up of musicians from our complete orchestra, host their own concerts during the Bellas Artes “Alternate Sundays” series.
The Pro Music Youth Chamber Orchestra, an example of tenacity and resilience under pressure, extends positive energy to all who are coping with demanding restrictions, confinement, and compromise.
Our fine musicians will be back at the proper time to give their hundred-percent commitment and energy at rehearsals and concerts this year. We can all share the excitement of being part of a grassroots vision to maintain the permanent orchestra as a San Miguel treasure, ensuring that future generations of Mexico’s talents can benefit from the resources they need to excel!
Meanwhile, you can join us by watching this short Barry Weiss YouTube video of concert excerpts at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4QbfkkUnY8
See you at Bellas Artes!