Giancarlo Guerrero, acclaimed music director for the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, spoke in the Massey Performing Arts Center at Belmont University this morning in a convocation titled “A Life Shaped by Music,” sharing personal stories of his own music education and development.
“It’s a great privilege for me to be speaking with you this morning,” Guerrero began. “I am always looking for excuses to hang out with students.”
Born in Managua, Nicaragua, Guerrero and his family moved when he was 10 to Costa Rica, where his parents signed him up for the youth symphony as a way to keep their young son busy and out of trouble. “My introduction to music was accidental. In my immediate family no one knows how to read music, except now my two daughters do because they are learning piano.”
Guerrero originally dreamt of playing violin, but when he arrived to take the required aptitude test in his second year with the youth symphony, there were 50 students and parents in front of him. Rather than waiting, he decided to stand in another line with only two people: percussion. “The instructor handed me sticks and said ‘Go like this… click click.’ And I went ‘click click.’ ‘Good, you’re in!’ And I never looked back.”
While on a percussion performance scholarship at Baylor, Guerrero was encouraged to pursue conducting and fell in love with scores. “I am a medium for dead people–that is my job, to get into a composer’s head… [Your career] has to move you; otherwise it’s not worth doing. That’s not just true of music; it’s true of anything.”
Now in his second season with the Nashville Symphony, Guerrero continues to flourish as the orchestra’s music director. A fervent advocate of new music and contemporary composers, Guerrero has collaborated with and championed the works of several of America’s most respected composers, including John Adams, John Corigliano, Osvaldo Golijov, Jennifer Higdon, Michael Daugherty and Roberto Sierra. In the fall of 2009, Naxos released a recording of Guerrero and the Nashville Symphony performing works by Michael Daugherty, which earned three GRAMMY® Awards, including one for Best Orchestral Performance. Guerrero’s latest recording with the orchestra features the music of Argentine legend Astor Piazzolla. In June 2004, Guerrero was awarded the Helen M. Thompson Award by the American Symphony Orchestra League, which recognizes outstanding achievement among young conductors nationwide. He holds degrees from Baylor and Northwestern universities.
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