It’s not every day that a young, up-and-coming violinist gets to share the stage with a world-renowned conductor. In fact, most young musicians don’t get that opportunity until they perform with an orchestra. That was not the case for Angel Vela, a 10-year-old boy from Houston whose life was forever changed on November 14, 2014. On that day, Angel was at Jones Hall celebrating his mom’s birthday. On the program that night was Beethoven, one of his mom’s favorite composers. “My mom loves Beethoven, so I wanted it to be a special birthday.” The evening was also special for Angel, who attended the concert through the Art Through Composition initiative (read more below). In anticipation of meeting Houston Symphony Composer-in-Residence Gabriela Lena Frank as part of that program, Angel brought along his first violin for her to autograph.
After watching Music Director Andrés Orozco-Estrada’s energy on stage as he conducted works by both Frank and Beethoven, Angel was determined to meet him as well. When Andrés heard that a young violinist wanted to meet him, without any hesitation, he invited the young boy and his parents on stage following the concert. “It was a very special night for me, and I am glad I got to meet so many nice people. But even better, I made a new friend—Mr. Andrés,” said Angel.
What initially started as an autograph request transformed the life of a young boy and aspiring violinist. Angel—like many children his age—wasn’t convinced that playing the violin was something he really wanted to do in the long term. His experience at the Symphony that night, according to Angel’s mother, changed the course of his dreams and aspirations. “I can tell you that my son went from wanting to stop learning to play the violin to wanting to be the best violin player,” said Maria Vela, Angel’s mother. “My 10-year-old son, who has never been sure of what he wants to be when he grows up, now wants to be a conductor! All because Mr. Orozco-Estrada took 10 minutes from his day and made a lasting impression on my son.”
A few days after the performance, Angel penned a grateful note that has encouraged and inspired the entire Houston Symphony family in our work to share the joy and value of symphonic music. When Angel wrote, “Mr. Andrés made me feel like I belonged there,” he succinctly and poignantly shared the sentiment that we hope all Houstonians feel. Be it classical, pops or family concerts, the Houston Symphony has a place for everyone.
UPDATE: After hearing Angel’s story, an anonymous donor of the Houston Symphony made a phone call to the North Pole and arranged for Santa to bring Angel and his family an early Christmas present: a ticket package to the Houston Symphony! Santa’s elves delivered the tickets to Angel at his school on December 18. Angel’s orchestra teacher noted, “I’ve seen a huge difference in Angel’s engagement in orchestra class since all this has happened – it’s absolutely delightful.” We hope Angel and his family will continue to be inspired by Andrés and the Houston Symphony as they enjoy Santa’s early Christmas gift!
Gabriela Lena Frank Inspires Students to Create Art
As the Houston Symphony’s new Composer-in-Residence, Gabriela Lena Frank has already made an impressive artistic impact on audiences through the Symphony’s performance of two of her works during this classical season. Beyond these concerts, though, Gabriela shares the Houston Symphony’s passion for arts education and outreach, and she recently connected with Houston-area students to share this passion. Before the Symphony’s November 14 performance of her composition, Three Latin American Dances, Gabriela met with students from Houston-area elementary schools who had created paintings based on her composition as part of the Art Through Composition initiative. Prior to creating their masterpieces, in October, the students attended the Houston Symphony’s Cameron Explorer Concert where they learned how music can portray various landforms and geographical areas. More than 200 participating students—one of whom was Angel Vela, the young violinist in the accompanying story—were invited to bring a guest to the Jones Hall performance to hear the work performed live by the orchestra and to view their artwork on display in the lobby.
Gabriela is not alone in her outreach to the community, though. In any given week, Symphony musicians may be found throughout the greater Houston area presenting formal recital programs for seniors, reading books and demonstrating their instruments to young students in libraries, holding master classes at area high schools, strolling the halls at Texas Children’s Hospital or drawing a crowd at the Star of Hope Mission. Throughout the 2014-15 season, members of the orchestra will make more than 340 presentations at no cost to the community.