The Conversation: Jorge A. Peña

Artistic Director, St. Augustine Music Festival

Violist, Jacksonville Symphony 

Artistic Director and Conductor, Golden Isles Youth Orchestra

General Manager, Coastal Symphony of Georgia 

Photograph by laird

You’ve played viola for the Jacksonville Symphony for 24 seasons! What keeps you inspired? 

Playing the best music that history has to offer at the great Jacoby Symphony Hall and sharing with great musicians week after week definitely helps a lot! 

At a personal level, it is that commitment to do my best at everything that I do that keeps me wanting more, combined with teamwork in an ensemble. It is more than a healthy competition; it is a longing to collaborate to share how good you can get at doing something you love doing. Very different than expecting myself to be perfect or better than someone else.

Do you have a personal favorite composer or piece of music to listen to and/or play?

I love J.S. Bach’s music for being so complex yet satisfyingly perfect; one piece I love is the Chaconne from Partita No. 2 in D Minor for violin solo.

You and your wife, Jin Kim-Peña, cofounded the St. Augustine Music Festival fifteen years ago. As it has grown into the country’s largest free classical music festival, what is your direct involvement today?

Although through the years we have been very fortunate to have excellent presidents and members in the board of directors, we both continue to be very involved in the operations and development. After all, the organization is still small and we are the ones with the most experience, but we try never to lose focus of the artistic side.

What would you describe as our region’s musical traditions?

The First Coast has had a very stable support for good classical music, this has helped to foster many organizations like the St. Augustine Music Festival, the Jacksonville Symphony and Youth Orchestras, Jacksonville and St. Augustine civic orchestras, the Coastal Symphony of Georgia in Brunswick, several bands like the River City Brass Band, and choirs like the Jacksonville Children’s Chorus and Orange Park Chorale. Then you have Jacksonville University and the University of North Florida with their own ensembles.

Thousands of music lovers attend classical concerts every year, yet many more people still haven’t ventured out and taken advantage of such great offerings.

In your founding of the St. Augustine Music Festival, along with your leading youth orchestras and master classes at our local arts magnets, your drive to teach music is clear. What do you enjoy about teaching?

Being a classical musician almost intrinsically implies you are a teacher, there is so much great music out there to find out about. That is why I love the St. Augustine Music Festival. I tell my students at the Golden Isles Youth Orchestra that being a classical musician also means being an ambassador for classical music. I see my role as conductor and music director of the Golden Isles Youth Orchestra as a music teacher as well as being the inspiration for them so that they can also become the inspiration in our communities.

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Author: Arbus

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