My recent guest column for The Ensemble, a monthly newsletter reporting on the U.S. and Canada Sistema-inspired movement.
April 1, 2016
"Across the Americas"
What began as a simple spaghetti dinner with Maestro Abreu in New York quickly turned into a continental mission – as things tend to do, with the Maestro. “We are going to generate a continental project with the Simon Bolivar Orchestra of Venezuela,” he told me. I had just heard him give a lecture about unifying the Americas through music, and we talked about the mentoring relationship between two Mexican musical giants, composer Carlos Chavez and conductor Eduardo Mata, and the Simon Bolivar in its early days. It’s imperative, Abreu told me, that the spirit of this once-thriving alliance be rekindled.
In short order, I was in Caracas with two of Mexico’s top young musicians, bringing a new piano concerto to the Bolivars. The piano soloist was Abdiel Vazquez; the piece we premiered was Piramide del Sol, by Juan Pablo Contreras.
Working with the orchestra, I experienced firsthand the total commitment to music and the generosity of spirit that contribute to their distinctive greatness. I got used to hearing the brass section continue to fine-tune intricate passages long after our rehearsal ended. (The power of the string sound was a treasure to behold!) It was common for me to receive words of encouragement from orchestra members. Right before the performance, many wished me well.
What can we learn from the Bolivars, we who work with young U.S./Canadian Sistema programs? First, we need to do everything we can to nurture the feeling of interdependence in our orchestras—you are responsible for others and they are responsible for you. We need to think in terms of inspiring motivation in our ensembles so that they can take ownership of their own learning and outcomes.
The second lesson is about the “continental project.” We need to keep generating links with programs beyond our own geographical domains. The Bolivars’ path to becoming one of the world’s leading orchestras involved a diligent exchange and confluence of artistic cultures from the Americas to Europe and back. By actively listening to the sound of others, the orchestra was able to find its voice. If we listen closely across continents, we too will begin to find our voices.
Pre-concert gathering with Exec. Director and Concertmaster. Just before going on stage with the Atlanta Music Project!
All together now. Great to collaborate with these wonderful young musicians! #elsistema #music #education #AMP
I am delighted to share this video of my performance with the Simon Bolivar Orchestra of Venezuela in Caracas last November. This is a brand new Piano Concerto by Juan Pablo Contreras, a leading young Mexican composer. At the piano is the phenomenal Abdiel Vázquez - Pianist who was also a joy to work with! More music to come…
Muy contento de compartirles este video de mi presentación con la Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar de Venezuela en Caracas el pasado mes de Noviembre. Disfruten de un nuevo Concierto para Piano de Juan Pablo Contreras, uno de los más importantes compositores jóvenes de México. Como solista el fenomenal pianista Abdiel Vázquez con quien disfrute mucho compartir este concierto. Más música por venir…
Jose Luis Hernandez is now appointed as The James and Mary Barnes Foundation Director of Sistema Tulsa! The Barnes Foundation Trustees are pleased that their support will "enable the Boston Avenue United Methodist Church to offer children in Tulsa a chance to enrich their lives."
"I am proud of the work we do at the Boston Avenue United Methodist Church and Sistema Tulsa," says Jose Luis. "Our program focuses on excellence, community, and partnerships to grow a more prosperous youth. I am delighted of this appointment that allows me to share my passion for music and education!"