Under the leadership of new Music Director and native Colombian Andrés Orozco Estrada, the Houston Symphony has begun an educational partnership with the Colombian Youth Philharmonic. As part of this partnership, fourteen Houston Symphony musicians journeyed to Paipa, Colombia to help prepare these talented young musicians for their upcoming visit to Houston, which will culminate in a side-by-side performance of Carmina Burana July 17 & 18. Recently, Vanessa Astros, the Houston Symphony’s Senior Director of Communications, had the opportunity to interview Diego Hernández Vidal, a cellist in the Colombian Youth Philharmonic. This interview has been translated from Spanish.
Vanessa Astros: Hi Diego! Could you start by telling us a little about yourself and the Colombian Youth Philharmonic?
Diego Hernández Vidal: My name is Diego Hernández Vidal, and I have been a cellist in the Colombian Youth Philharmonic since its inaugural tour in 2010. I’m grateful to be a part this project that goes beyond the music; the Philharmonic is like a family that seeks to develop its musicians’ potential artistically, personally and professionally. This project aims to help its members see their dreams come true. It shows you the right path to success, and the administrative and artistic staff works tirelessly to help us reach our goals.
VA: What’s the difference between your experience these last few weeks with the Houston Symphony and other residencies you have completed?
DHV: The Colombian Youth Philharmonic is known for bringing coaches of international caliber from schools and musical institutions from all over the world to better prepare the orchestra for concerts during artistic residencies. A little over a year ago, the Colombian Youth Philharmonic began a new educational strategy that, in my opinion, was a wise move. They decided to maximize the impact of the residency by unifying the faculty of the residencies, bringing musicians from one institution or orchestra at a time.
In this residency, the Houston Symphony musicians’ high level of musical knowledge and extensive professional experience resulted in a unified artistic conception of the twentieth-century repertoire that we’re working on, which has given me and the other students a unified perspective of a great professional North American orchestra.
I must confess that I’m very happy to be able to take a close look at how professional musicians of such a prestigious orchestra work, through listening to anecdotes told by our mentors and by spending time with them during coffee breaks, chamber music classes and social gatherings where we discuss politics, geography and the cultures of our countries. It’s also very gratifying to know that a young Colombian musician has earned—through hard work, discipline, excellence and a great artistic sensibility—the admiration and respect of dozens of brilliant musicians who are part of the Houston Symphony. I’m thankful for Maestro Andrés Orozco-Estrada for making this incredible exchange between the Houston Symphony and the Colombian Youth Philharmonic possible.
VA: Tell us about your Houston Symphony mentor. What was your relationship with him like?
DHV: The cellos had the honor to work with Christopher French; he’s a total character! He won us over with his jovial personality and charisma, and of course, to say he’s a great cellist is an understatement!
The classes were very interesting. He always had something wise to say. We’d review passages of certain pieces and everything was seamless. Time would fly by! It was really fun having him as coach of our section. His spirit and desire to always give 100% was contagious.
On a couple of occasions, we had time left to go over other key subjects for us, such as what things to keep in mind when auditioning or attending master classes, and we even planned some “cello-related things” for when we’re in Houston and meet again with our tutor Brinton, who visited our country and orchestra last year (we will omit the details to protect the identities of those involved…hahaha!)
VA: How do you feel about performing with the Houston Symphony?
DHV: Wow! This is one of the greatest experiences of my life! I’ll be able to talk about this tour for years to come because aside from it being a privilege, I know it will be a fully enriching experience, artistically speaking. Imagine sitting next to the musicians of the Houston Symphony, being led by Maestro Andrés in highly demanding repertoire. You almost have no choice but to give it your all, “take it all in” and enjoy the energy that surrounds you. I think it’s going to be a rewarding challenge for all of us and an unforgettable experience.
VA: What excites you most about your trip to Houston?
DHV: I’m really excited about seeing a place I haven’t been to before. Plus, the places we’re going to are filled with history and things to discover. It’s a lot of fun knowing that we will travel with friends, which makes the trip even more exciting. And of course, there is the highly anticipated side by side performance with the Houston Symphony, which makes this part of the tour the most important event of the year.
VA: What are your career goals?
DHV: My main interest right now is to continue with my artistic training because I firmly believe that a solid academic training would allow me to grow musically, artistically and personally. I recently completed my undergraduate studies in cello and have already begun contemplating the idea of studying abroad. It’s a long process because you have to be cautious and selective in your choices since these decisions will affect your professional future.
After that, I’d like to be able to work for a top orchestra. Making symphonic music is one of the things I enjoy most.
Learn more about the Houston Symphony’s educational partnership with the Colombian Youth Philharmonic here.
Hear the Colombian Youth Philharmonic perform Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring with conductor Andrés Orozco-Estrada for FREE this Sunday, July 12, 2015 at 3:00 pm as part of our 3rd Annual FREE Day of Music at Jones Hall!