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Raúl Aquiles Delgado, from Venezuelan exile to triumph in music: “Mexico is the ideal setting for the orchestral and symphonic genre”

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Exile brought him to Mexico, a country that has opened the doors of its best orchestras and concert halls to him. Venezuelan Raúl Aquiles Delgado (Caracas, 35 years old) triumphs as guest conductor of the Minería Symphony in a city that, he says, has enormous potential for music. Delgado has become Mexican, but his musical roots are steeped in a very strong tradition, because his father, Raúl Delgado Estévez (died in Mexico City in 2019), was a great composer, arranger and director, of much importance. fame in Venezuela. The musical vein also comes from uncles, grandparents, brothers, a family that met at barbecues on Sundays to eat and sing. In this conversation, the young Venezuelan cellist talks about his exile and his experience as a musician in Mexico, who for the interview, held at the headquarters of the Minería Symphony, arrives dressed in a beautiful guayabera made by his mother, Lucía. .

Ask. He comes from a family of musicians. Would you say that she has music in her blood?

Answer. Yes, because we are a very musical family. My great uncle was one of the great Latin American composers; My dad was a great choir director in Venezuela and also a popular musician. Had The quartet, a well-known Venezuelan music group. Uncles, cousins, musical brothers, many musicians in the family.

P. What was it like growing up in a family of musicians?

R. Beautiful. There was a lot of playing with the music. The weekends were about singing and playing. In Venezuela they have barbecues and ours were always around music.

P. Did you know as a child that you would dedicate yourself to music?

R. To be honest no. My dad didn’t impose music on us. My sister and I at some point wanted to study music and there my dad had a very funny conversation with children of about 8 and 10 years old. He told us that if we were going to become musicians it had to be something serious, we had to really dedicate ourselves, because people were going to be very concerned about the last name.

P. Did the last name weigh a lot?

R. In some ways yes. In my case, I carry the first and last name of my father, Raúl Delgado Estévez, that is why I decided to use the middle name, Aquiles, to differentiate myself a little, because my father was quite famous in Venezuela.

P. That fame also weighed.

R. Some teachers at the music school, at the Conservatory, wanted to check if this relative has the same talent as the rest of the family. It was a little heavy there.

P. Was there favoritism because his name was Raúl Delgado?

R. From some teachers maybe yes, but it also opens the doors a little for you. I was one call away from my dad to be able to see class with practically any teacher. Here comes the difficult part, which was justifying that last name and that call with dedication and discipline.

P. You entered the Venezuelan Orchestra System, that project so full of international recognition, from which names like Gustavo Dudamel have emerged, what was that experience like?

R. Lovely. Teacher Lourdes Sánchez, who is the director of the National Choir of Venezuela and is an extraordinary teacher, was our music theory and choir teacher in the nucleus that the System has in Los Teques, the capital of the Miranda State. Afterwards we retired for a while and began to study in conservatories that did not belong to the System. At about 16 years old we entered again, but not only watching classes, but as trainers. My sister and I started teaching classes. The magic of the system is that it has always been growing and practically every city and town has its nucleus.

P. How does that magic work? What impact does the Venezuelan Orchestra System have for young musicians?

R. More than for young musicians, the System has an impact on the general population and, above all, on the less favored population, because the central axis of the system is not necessarily training musicians, but social rescue through individual practice. and collective music. Music has been a means and not necessarily the end. When the system becomes so large and becomes professional, in the sense that we have great academics at the forefront of the philosophical teaching process, then now the child does have the choice of being a musician or not, but that is not the important thing, He can be whatever he wants, doctor, lawyer, engineer, but he will be a professional with a social and artistic sensitivity different from that of any other professional.

P. How has the political, economic and social crisis that Venezuela is suffering hit the System?

R. The System survives despite everything, and by despite everything I also mean any government. Venezuela has had decades of governments with debatable results, so to speak, but the System always survives that, because people understand that when you work with children and for children it is always a project that must survive. Of course the political crisis in Venezuela has had a great impact, it has generated a diaspora, because many musicians like me have left.

P. Why did you decide to leave Venezuela?

R. The 2017 crisis was very strong. In the protests that year the situation was quite complicated, practically unsustainable. It was the year in which the most people left, I think three million, and we were part of them. Another trigger was that a great childhood friend was killed in one of the protests.

P. Did you participate in those demonstrations?

R. Yes, I actively participated in the marches.

P. Do you plan to return to Venezuela?

R. No, because we have already made a life in Mexico, my wife and I are Mexican. My mom, my sister, my nephew are here and we have a Mexican baby. I would love to direct the orchestras of the System again, although for different agenda reasons it has not materialized, but not to make a life in Venezuela again for now, because we have already made a life here in Mexico.

P. Why did you choose Mexico?

R. The logical answer in principle was probably Colombia, due to proximity, due to culture, because we are very similar, Venezuelans and Colombians. Medellín has a couple of professional orchestras, Bogotá has a couple too, but we have a great friend who lived here in Mexico, the saxophonist José Antonio Álvarez, and he told us: ‘Look, things are pretty good here, I see that there is good cultural movement’. I started to find out and realized that Mexico City alone has at least six professional orchestras, which is really an ideal setting for orchestral and symphonic music.

P. Was it difficult to make space within that scenario in Mexico?

R. Yes, for migrants it is difficult, because nobody knows you; You can be great, but nobody knows it. I had the great blessing of being invited by maestro Carlos Miguel Prieto and teacher Claudia Hinojosa to conduct the National Symphony Orchestra in February 2018, just about six months after arriving in Mexico. That opened a lot of doors for me. From there came invitations to other orchestras, such as the Minería Symphony Orchestra.

P. How has the experience been in Mining?

R. It has been very beautiful. I first started as a guest conductor, in 2018 I did four or five of the children’s concerts organized by the Orchestra. That year we made music Star Wars. I am a cellist and when a cello was needed for something that I was not going to conduct, they invited me to play.

P. What do you prefer: directing or playing?

R. I think I prefer conducting, because it is really what I dedicate myself to most, but I really like playing within the orchestra, because I feel that it keeps me connected to the reality of the musician.

P. What does giving a good concert mean to you?

R. It is bringing the composer’s idea to the public. A good concert depends on what the orchestra can offer, but also on the feedback of the public, because if an orchestra gives a concert that musically feels like it was good, but perhaps the public did not enjoy it, I don’t think it is a good concert at all. The Latin public is very grateful, but if the orchestra felt that it did not give its best, I don’t think it was a good concert either.

P. How do you get the audience excited and respond well to a concert?

R. First with good music. You can have the best orchestra in the world, but if the material is not good, I don’t think it will impact the public. The second ingredient is that the orchestra has not only the musical skills, but also the willingness to present a good concert to the public. And I think that the director is the one who puts the orchestra in agreement, because there are various criteria. And of course a good setting is also essential. Here in Mexico we have extraordinary scenarios.

P. What do you think about when you are on stage?

R. Lots of things can happen. I think that music, both conducting and playing within the orchestra, helps me feel like I am living in the here and now. It may happen that intrusive thoughts suddenly come to you, the silliest things in the world, like whether you left the stove on or whether you locked the car, but it feels very nice to know that there are 80 people dedicated to the same thing for an hour and a half, without being aware of what is happening outside.

P. Are you afraid of failing?

R. Yes, the fear of failure is always latent, but I combat it with study, sometimes excess of study. It’s the same with nerves. My formula is that nervousness without preparation turns into fear, and nervousness with preparation turns into adrenaline and a very positive energy for the concert.

P. In your time of rest, what music do you listen to?

R. Right now I listen to little music, although we listen to everything at home. As Latinos we really like Juan Luis Guerra, who is one of my favorites. My wife and I really like Bruno Mars, we went to Las Vegas just to see him sing. When I am alone, for example when I drive, I often listen to things that I have to direct, so let’s say that there we are not talking about free time, but rather I am looking for references for my work.

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