The Latin Presence in Classical Music

Exclusive Interview with Acclaimed Orchestra Director Alondra de la Parra

Jeffrey Martin

A New York-born Mexican inspiration for musicians.

Symphonic music could be described as the solitary pursuit of a special connection between the audience, the orchestra, and the music. Acclaimed orchestra conductor Alondra de la Parra knows how to balance this formula and applies it with elegance and class from the podium in the best auditoriums in Hamburg, Milan, Paris or Mexico City.

She was born in New York City — by accident — while her parents were pursuing masters degrees in sociology and film, but she considers herself Mexican with the same certainty and passion she uses when she talks about music or her privileged career.

Exclusive Interview with Acclaimed Orchestra Director Alondra de la Parra
Alondra de la Parra, successful Mexican orchestra director.

She learned, from her family, the love of art, particularly music. Her grandmother, the legendary Yolanda Vargas Dulché, was not only a remarkable writer, but she adored classical music and took Alondra to her first music lessons. “I started playing the piano at age 7 and the cello at 13, but I realized my position was not in the corpus of the orchestra, but in its direction,” recalls De la Parra.

It was during her years in London that she had the first opportunity to direct a small band of high school students. It was the St. Leonard’s Mayfield School Orchestra, which gave her access to the instruments, choral work and musical literature. Later, in Mexico City, she completed the curriculum of composition and piano at the Center for Research and Musical Studies of the Aztec capital.

With the cycle completed, Alondra felt ready to undertake the work of a director, translating into sounds the essence of what a composer wants to communicate, to transport the audiences to his time and display his aesthetics. Beethoven and Debussy, for example, aim at the same goal but do it through different paths. De la Parra guides us through those musical avenues.

“The hardest thing about leading an orchestra is to master the technique, establish a contact with the musicians and always try to polish oneself as a human being. You need a lot of will and determination if that’s what you want to do, “says the young conductor.

Exclusive Interview with Acclaimed Orchestra Director Alondra de la Parra
Alondra de la Parra conducted the symphonic orchestras of Dallas, San Francisco and Phoenix, among others.

The long hours of rehearsals and the commitment and tenacity music requires have made Alondra de la Parra the extraordinary orchestra director she is today. “Being a musician forces you to have discipline, which helps you organize your thoughts”, she says. “Having talent is not enough, success requires effort.”

New York offered her the chance to lift the baton in front of a professional orchestra and hear the public’s response. She conducted her first concert in 2003 with the New Amsterdam Symphony Orchestra, and to date she has built an impressive resume, which includes the direction of symphonic orchestras and ensembles in Dallas, Houston, San Francisco and Phoenix, the New World Symphony in Miami, the Tivoli Symphony of Denmark and the Chamber Orchestra of Los Angeles, among many others. This talented director fondly remembers her presentation with the Washington National Opera in a Gala Concert with Placido Domingo, one of her most admired mentors.

An important chapter in the life of Alondra de la Parra is the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas, a project she founded to promote a new generation of talented composers and soloists from the Americas, especially young women who have the vocation and the talent but need the momentum and encouragement to get into a world traditionally dominated by men. “I want to inspire young girls who aspire to become musicians and directors,” said De la Parra. “Sometimes you need to see someone up there on the stage, to be encouraged.” With her Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas project, De la Parra received her first platinum record and filled stadiums with audiences eager to hear symphonic music, contradicting those who think the genre lives behind a wall of inaccessibility. Unfortunately, the project ceased to exist in 2011 for lack of financing.

Maestra De la Parra joined the notable list of conductors of Orchestre de Paris. The young director took her place at the iconic Parisian institution to direct Rimsky-Korsakov, and Chopin´s Concerto No. 2 with Nikolai Lugansky at the piano, closing with a Latin American work as an encore, Danzón No. 2 by Arturo Márquez.

Alondra de la Parra os one of today’s most notable Hispanic personalities in classical music and her name is praised among other Latin talents such as the Venezuelan conductor and violinist Gustavo Dudamel and the Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Flores.  ■

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