The Houston Symphony is preparing to launch its 2023-24 season, and with that will come one more fresh face in the organization. Gonzalo Farias has assumed the role of assistant conductor, as a complement to music director Juraj Vacuha, to lead the organization into its ever expanding work in Houston, the symphonic world and beyond.
Born in Santiago de Chile, Farias started studying piano at the age of five, earned his bachelor's degree at the P.C. University of Chile and continued his studies at the New England Conservatory as a full-scholarship student of powerhouse couple and musical living legends Wha-Kuyng Byun
and Russell Sherman
Farias recalls his first time encountering a symphony orchestra as nothing short of life changing.
"I was mesmerized by the energy of so many different people playing music and somehow tuning [from a collection of individuals] into one cohesive group. That was an enormous very meaningful experience for me," he said. "I started crying because up until that time, I never really experienced that. From there, I always knew that I was going to be a conductor."
Lucky for Houston, he followed through with what he describes as his call of duty to serve the artistic community. He brings with him a wealth of riches from previous experience. He previously served as associate conductor at the Kansas City Symphony, the Jacksonville Symphony and the Virginia Symphony Orchestra. He was also recently selected to conduct the esteemed Bruno Walter National Conductor Preview
, the most important showcase for conductors in America.
With such a storied career, the world is his oyster. Yet, Farias says that the decision to accept the position with the Houston Symphony was a very natural one.
"There's a number of things that are at play there. It was a very hard decision for me to leave Kansas City; however, once you understand the field and classical music, you have to take the opportunities presented to you," he said. "It felt like a natural progression for me to go to Houston because of the reputation of its symphony. Few orchestras in the country perform year round. And then, the music director is one of the greatest musician alive. Those factors played into me feeling that this decision was a natural progression for my profession."
He has aspirations to extend the music beyond the stage and create a community of artists, both experienced and novice.
"As an assistant conductor of the Houston Symphony, I'm also working in the community in Houston...not only in the concerts, but all sorts of activities off the podium," he said. "I'm getting to know the needs of the community. There's so much more than just being a conductor. It's not only about the music ... it's also to fully understand where and how the community works with arts, and fundamentally, what they need to prosper and to be a healthy community."
Only time will tell exactly how that plays out: spurring community orchestras, working with the school districts, providing accessible programming, or a combination of all the above. But one thing is for sure, he will be a force for good in Houston's artscape.
That notion is not lost on him. For someone who has grown up with music for the majority of his memorable life, he's never lost that chlid-like wonder about how the arts can transform individuals ... and by proxy, communities.
"We're concerned about the joy of the music, the joy of being together, the joy of sharing that feeling with the audience and feel that response from the audience. I think, ultimately, that's why I do what I do," he said. "The sense of accomplishment whenever that happens is a reminder of the power of music and why I do what I do."
The Houston Symphony commences its 2023-24 season at 8 p.m. on Friday, September 22 with its POPS series and launches its classical series at 7:30 p.m. on September 29 at Jones Hall, 615 Texas Avenue. For tickets or information, call 713-224-7575 or visit houstonsymphony.org.