On Tour in Mexico City

Since 2013, YOLA has been part of the LA Phil’s tours, but the trip to Mexico City marked the first time an entire orchestra traveled alongside the LA Phil, with 96 YOLA musicians joining Music & Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel and the LA Phil from November 10-15. The YOLA CDMX Tour Orchestra ranged in age from 10 to 22 and included YOLA alumni and students from three YOLA sites—YOLA at EXPO Center, YOLA at HOLA, and YOLA at Torres.

Throughout the fall, students and YOLA faculty joined together for rehearsals at YOLA sites across Los Angeles. In the weeks before takeoff, musicians had multiple opportunities to rehearse with Dudamel at Walt Disney Concert Hall, and to rehearse and perform with LA Phil Associate Conductor Paolo Bortolameolli and 2019/20 Dudamel Fellow Enluis Montes Olivar.

In Mexico City, YOLA musicians participated in "Encuentros," a cultural exchange with 100 students from Mexico City, ages 15 to 20. This series of intensive music and leadership-focused workshops, rehearsals, and masterclasses was led by Bortolameolli, LA Phil musicians, and faculty from the Conservatorio Nacional de Música in Mexico City. A collaboration between YOLA, Sistema Nacional de Fomento Musical en México, Music Schools of INBAL, and the Gustavo Dudamel Foundation, the relationship culminated in a free, open rehearsal with Dudamel on November 13 at the Palacio de Bellas Artes, and a free daytime children’s performance by YOLA on November 14 at the Teatro Julio Castillo.

On the night of November 14, 18 of the 96 students performed alongside the LA Phil at Auditorio Nacional for an audience of 10,000 on November 14, with violinist Sergio Paez of YOLA at Torres serving as concertmaster.

YOLA musicians described a key highlight of the tour as meeting their peers in Mexico City. As Sergio describes, “Being able to perform with the local students was something I was really looking forward to before coming.”

And the youngest musician on the trip, violinist Dylan Wei Tran (pictured above) of YOLA at Torres, said, "I am honored to be a part of a group that connects borders. Music is about connecting people. Going to CDMX really connected me with my fellow YOLA musicians and the musicians of Mexico," adding “You know what else is amazing? A B flat is still a B flat in Mexco!”

For many YOLA musicians with ties in Mexico, the tour was also an opportunity to connect with their culture and have a family reunion.

Clarinetist Angel Mendez of YOLA at HOLA noted, "I feel like I'm representing LA and also a part of Mexico where my parents are from. It's a feeling of pride."

“The best part about it is [my relatives in Mexico] get to see the end result of all that work we’ve put into this program that they’ve heard about from miles away,” said violinist Laura Garcia, a YOLA at Expo Center alumna.

Imeldo Bautista Velasco had never met in person his 16-year-old grandson, Christopher, who was born in the United States. When he learned his grandson was performing at the Palacio de Bellas Artes with YOLA, he traveled from Oaxaca to Mexico City to see the concert.

“I know that not everyone gets to play there. I feel proud seeing my grandson perform,” he said.

LA Phil Board Chair Tom Beckmen hosted a lunch at Los Pinos for all musicians and their families following a performance there.

For more, please click for A Look Back at YOLA's Visit to Mexico City.

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