By Gonzalo Farias
I think I must have been thirteen or fourteen and it was one of my first times riding the bus from my school. Santiago is a lovely city, but it’s definitely scary for a child that has no friends and wants to listen to classical music. On that ride, I was mugged by three people not that much older than me. Even though they just wanted my personal stereo, they also got Dvořák’s New World Symphony recording in it. Another way to share music, you may think. However, a void grew every afternoon when missing the beautiful mixture of Czech sounds and South American traffic noise.
The void became a way to witness how my life was brewing in front of me. That void was filled with imagination and curiosity. With Dvořák, Chopin, Bach, Brahms, Schumann, Mozart, but especially with Beethoven and Mahler. Quickly Beethoven and Mahler became Ludwig and Gustav. My confidants. My teachers. My pals. Music was not a choice, but a sense of duty. A call. An inexplicable joy. Although piano was filling my life, orchestral sounds were always finding their own way into my heart. Somehow life brought me to Boston to study music seriously. Long practice hours were new to me. I was often scared of the twelve to fourteen hour practice sessions and the new piece I had to memorize that week. I don’t think I’ve been more scared in my life than when I played the Goldberg Variations in my last recital. But yet, scared sometimes, never afraid.
Conducting came naturally, just like rain eventually longs to wake up somewhere along the sea. Even though, by naturally I mean a lot of work, countless rejections, and lots of nights chatting with Ludwig and Gustav. But nonetheless, the journey started, finally. The boat set sail after too many years of eyeing the shore. And everything started to make sense. Ideas became rehearsals. Scores became musicians. Music became people. Music magically created meaning in my life. Music redirected my attention and care to the core of the human experience. Not only our wonderful capacity for emotions, but also the ability to grow. To learn from our mistakes and cultivate a garden of feelings and colors to become who we mean to be. Invariably, growing has many bus stops, but always the first and last one is love. My pal Roberto Bolaño once said, “Nothing good ever comes of love.” But what comes of love is always something better. And that something better is us. It’s us in Music. That I say myself.
I didn’t come from a musical family so to speak. I was never encouraged to practice or go to concerts. But luckily, my family just loved me and let me be. Looking back into my years of bus rides, I didn’t know that my life was filled with music. And maybe you also don’t even know it. However, by music I mean Music. And by that I mean space. The space that separates you and me, but also the space that unites us. Like Jodorowsky said one time: “I don’t know who you are, I don’t know who I am. Marvelous mystery. All we have is this space between us. And how wonderful is this space.” To me, that’s Music. If we listen carefully, there is Music happening right now and we are all in a long, big concert. How wonderful indeed.
I know … that last sentence was kinda strange. But the invisible power of music is kinda strange. Music strikes that peculiar key. Good musicians and composers have many of those keys. Good listeners, many more. But you know what is even more astounding? It’s when good musicians and good listeners get together. And you can fully experience that space, those hearts, those tears and smiles, and those sounds. That’s why we can be scared, but never afraid. We have all of us in Music.
Every concert at the Jacksonville Symphony can be a miracle. Every week is a chance to really listen, open your mind, and experience what you’ve never experienced before. Or perhaps what we sometimes forget: That we are already there. We are already here. Together in Music. I hope you bring your tune and find new ones at Jacoby Symphony Hall.
Hope I see you there.