I’ve long wanted to meet Maestro Gordon Campbell, the Midwestern US-born director and conductor of the Orquesta Sinfónica Sinaloa de las Artes. I’ve been curious about how he manages such an internationally, interculturally diverse group of talented professionals, and how it is for him living and working in Mexico.
I know, you would be more interested in hearing about the incredible musical events he puts on—in his inimitable, down-to-earth and accessible manner. It’s a nice contrast to the pomp and circumstance of our other terrifically talented resident conductor.
I am interested in the music and the season, too, but I really have wanted to gain a bit of insight into the man and his interesting life. Come to find out, like me, he has lived most of his life outside the USA—primarily in Latin America, with a stint in Israel for good measure.
How did I find that out? Well, watch what you wish for, because this weekend we got a call from the Maestro himself, inviting us to join him for dinner—he wanted to brainstorm with us. Joining us at the table were Janet Blaser from M! Magazine, and Lisa Lankins from MazatlanMyCity. We were included thanks to Alfredo Gomez Rubio, of the Proyecto Centro Histórico Association and Pedro y Lola. And a beautiful dinner it was, on a crystal clear, warm and moon-filled late December evening.
It turns out that Gordon joined the Peace Corps back in the late 60s, primarily as an alternative to the Vietnam War draft. He was sent to Paraguay, where he played French horn in the national symphony and also secured 60 instruments to start a band at a school in Asunción. How? There were kids who wanted to play and couldn’t afford instruments. On his Christmas break, this young man returned to Ohio and asked his hometown friends and family to share their used instruments. They did, and the Phi Mu Alpha professional music fraternity at Youngstown State even refurbished and tuned what they received. The instruments were shipped to Paraguay, and a new band was born! Quite a difference one person can make!
As kind gestures tend to do, his grew. The band has since continued on, developed, and even toured internationally. Gordon was able to return to Paraguay in 2002, and by sheer fortuitousness met the band’s current director and attended one of their performances.
What is very cool is how this one small gesture had repercussions that will last multiple lifetimes. And, it inspired other, similar efforts. Gordon had a former Mexican student (he has lived and worked throughout Mexico, including Director of the Symphony in Aguas Calientes) who was moving to the USA with his wife. The wife was panicked: what would she do there as a “trailing spouse?” Gordon told her about a student band in Oaxaca that was in desperate need of instruments, and shared his Paraguay story with her. Perhaps she could help with that during her stay in the USA? Inspired, the woman embarked on the project and obtained instruments for the band in Oaxaca.
You can hear Gordon telling these stories and more in his own voice in the video below. Be sure to also listen to one of their very cool future plans for the Camerata—it could involve you!
The maestro is married to a beautiful and very intelligent journalist, Guianeya Román. It turns out that she is actively involved in promoting the Symphony, involved in the Culiacán Community Chorus, and collaborates with Gordon on special events such as the upcoming Mozart and His Women, with Angélica Aragón, the famous film and telenovela actress.
Gordon told us how in Mexico City (where he’s also worked) and other major cities in Latin America, Sundays at noon is “concert time.” People love knowing that every Sunday at noon there will be a concert; they easily schedule this into their week and enjoy an interlude of quality music before lunch and relaxation with the family. He thought such a series might be a terrific addition to the Mazatlán music scene, and the Camerata Gordon Campbell is now in its fourth year.
And does he have a fantastic season planned for us! They have gotten us so excited! Gordon and Guianeya ended up joining us at our home the afternoon after we met them, and there we recorded a video interview. I’ll share excerpts of that interview with you in several installments, under the title, “Behind the Chamber.”
I trust you’ll enjoy getting to know a bit about this incredibly talented expat, and hopefully you’ll get as excited as we are about the January 4-March 1 season. You can get tickets at the Angela Peralta box office, or online (though personally we can never get the online function to work). It is amazing what a man with passion, lifelong connections, and a shoestring budget can do! Thank goodness that we here in Sinaloa, and especially here in Mazatlán, are able to enjoy the fruits of Gordon’s passion.
Of great interest to me is that Gordon, this lived-his-whole-life-in-Latin-America director, knows Luis Szarán—the guy who started the Landfillharmonic that has become so hugely popular. I was beyond excited to hear that! He plans to visit Luis soon, and has hope that he will be visiting us here in Mazatlán! I am most definitely crossing my fingers and toes! Learn some of Luis’ background as Maestro Campbell tells the story, below (video is a bit blurry at points; sorry about that):
During our dinner we brainstormed about all kinds of things. I told Gordon how much I loved watching live symphony, opera, dance or theater in major world historical monuments, such as the Parthenon in Athens or the Coliseum in Rome. He shared with us that he has done similar things in Mexico, performing not just AT, but ON a pyramid. Personally I’d love to attend an outdoor concert at Las Labradas or a historic hacienda, such as Las Moras or Los Osuna. We talked about getting more Mazatlecos involved in the Chamber series, perhaps by reaching out to the students’ families at the Centro Municipal de las Artes.
It’s exciting to know that such a successful team, with such a great track record, is passionate about remaining innovative and accessible. If you have some ideas for the symphony or the Camerata series, send them to us or comment below! I believe all ideas are welcome; you never know what we’ll be hearing or seeing next!
And, now through March 1st, count on Sunday matinee concerts of international caliber, right here in Mazatlán!