YOLA VOICES: John Anthony Gonzalez

Last month at the LA Phil’s Symphonies for Schools concerts, the bassoon soloist wasn’t much older than the students in the audience. Seventeen-year-old John Anthony Gonzalez, from the YOLA @ HOLA program, performed the first movement of Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto as part of a program recorded for NPR’s From the Top. It will be broadcast in May.

Gonzalez and his family live in the Rampart District of Los Angeles, and YOLA @ HOLA has become something of a family activity. His two younger brothers and two cousins all currently play in YOLA @ HOLA, and an older cousin graduated last year.

Gonzalez has auditioned for the nation’s top conservatories and music programs and plans to become a professional musician.

When did you take up music?

In my family, both my grandfather and father are in music. My grandfather plays clarinet, and my father played saxophone. So my father really started us on solfège and teaching us the notes and how to keep time when we were little.

In fifth grade, my mother came home with a Gustavo Dudamel poster and a YOLA application. The program was brand new, and they were recruiting, so my Mom enrolled me.

You can’t have started on the bassoon. How did you discover that instrument?

Sax isn’t really in the orchestra, so that wasn’t an option, so I started with clarinet. But when I first came across a poster of instruments at YOLA, I remember that the bassoon stood out to me. I’d never seen anything like it in my life, and I thought it was really cool.

A couple of months later they took me to a bassoon workshop at the LA Phil, and I saw one. It was taller than me! It had eight keys just for your left thumb. I had to wait two years to switch because it is such a big instrument.

You’ve been playing not just with YOLA, but you also now attend the LA County High School for the Arts and have a teacher in the LA Phil, too?

Michele Grego – she’s amazing. Back at that bassoon workshop, she told me then that she wanted to help and would guide me if I wanted to stick with bassoon. She took me under her wing and gave me private lessons every two months and then more often as I got serious and had college auditions this year.

I auditioned at Eastman, the New England Conservatory, Oberlin, Cal State Long Beach, University of Michigan, and the Peabody Institute. YOLA really supported me. If it weren’t for YOLA, I wouldn’t have been able to fly out for auditions; they do some regional auditions, but I really wanted to go there and meet the professors I might be spending four years with. I should find out about admissions in early April.

How did the “From the Top” concert go?

Playing with the LA Phil as a soloist at age 17 was a great feeling. I invited everyone—my parents and teachers and friends. It was also amazing to play for kids my age, to inspire them so that they can do whatever they set their mind to.

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