Afro-Latin Renaissance: Minnesota Youth Symphonies with Nachito Herrera

Sarah Witte-Jacobs, Ordway 11/30/18

World-class musician Nachito Herrera will bring together an array of incredible talent from around Minnesota for the December 1 presentation of Afro-Latin Renaissance. In preparation, Herrera rehearsed with Minnesota Youth Symphonies in mid-November. Ordway staffer Sarah Witte-Jacobs attended to observe, and shares her perspective on the experience:

Minnesota Youth Symphonies’ (MYS) mission is to enrich and inspire talented K-12 orchestral musicians by providing professional, comprehensive educational experiences, and to thrill audiences with outstanding performances of orchestral repertoire. Performing three major concerts in the Twin Cities each season, and rehearsing on most Saturdays eight months out of the year, MYS musicians are committed to their life in the arts beyond what is learned in school. A parent of a MYS musician has once said, “MYS contributes not just to individual and group development but also benefits the entire community, providing quality experiences that guide youth to a productive and healthy life.”

Minnesota Youth Symphonies programming is, without directly using coined terminology, Creative Youth Development: “Young people thrive when they have opportunities to maximize their creative potential. Research [from the National Guild for Community Arts Education] shows that creative youth development supports young people in developing the personal, social, and intellectual skills that are critical to success in life, school, and work…integrating creative skill-building, inquiry, and expression with positive youth development principles, fueling young people’s imaginations and building crucial learning and life skills.”

Minnesota Youth Symphony rehearsal at Highland Junior High School. Photo by Tommy Sar.
Nachito Herrera at rehearsals with Minnesota Youth Symphony at Highland Junior High School

Music taught me how to persevere, to take on challenges, to grow socially and emotionally, and always provided me with a sense of belonging to a whole. Had community arts been missing from my high school experience, had I not seen the well of support for being an emerging artist, had I not spent weekends and late evenings diving into my passions, I wonder if my successes today would be present. I am grateful to have attended this rehearsal, to remind me of young musician work ethic and to watch young minds learn from Nachito Herrera, who I have had the pleasure of getting to know over the last few months. Nachito was nurtured as a musician from the age of twelve, and has such strong devotion to ensuring young people have access to high quality musical instruction as well as numerous and impactful performing opportunities. Minnesota Youth Symphonies’ musicians have toured Cuba to perform with Nachito – what a feat at such a young age!

During rehearsal, each musician played with sensitivity and passion, but also carried themselves with professionalism and dedication; when their conductor spoke to give notes, the room went silent. Their bodies swayed and eyebrows rose and fell with the dynamics of the music they created as a whole; their ability to internalize many moving parts in just a few moments time was very impressive to watch. Nachito brought with him scores for the students, played prima vista (fancy Italian way of saying sight-reading or playing a piece of music never seen before), and the sound produced was inspiring. Minnesota Youth Symphonies musicians will be in professional ensembles in no time at all. I could tell they were both excited and frustrated by the challenge of Meine Lippen, Sie Kissen So Heiss, composed by Franz Lehár, soon to be performed alongside soprano Norah Long, with such little rehearsal time, in front of hundreds of audience members; I truly am in awe of what these young people accomplish.

Nachito and Minnesota Youth Symphonies’ conductor Manny Laureano have worked together for about fifteen years, and like Nachito, Laureanos’s expectations of the caliber of musicianship that can come from these young players is high. He often would step into a section of the orchestra to give extra attention to notes that needed cleaning up or would jump in to help Nachito communicate to his students the right conviction of a phrase; a conductor of a youth ensemble also wears mentor and instructor hats simultaneously. Laureano is a graduate of the Juilliard School of Music, and joined the Minnesota Orchestra in 1981 – performing solos in all the MN Orchestra’s concert series and serving as an assistant conductor during the 2005-06 season. He serves as co-artistic director of the Minnesota Youth Symphonies and is entering his sixth season as music director of the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra.

I truly did not want the rehearsal to end, even though I knew I would see Minnesota Youth Symphonies in just two short weeks on the Ordway’s Music Theater stage! If this blog did not convince you to grab tickets ASAP, check out this YouTube video highlighting Minnesota Youth Symphonies’ 2018 Spring Concert and a performance of Scheherazade, composed by Nikolai Rimsky Korsakov, reappearing during Afro-Latin Renaissance for one night only!


Nachito Herrera’s Afro-Latin Renaissance appears December 1 at 7:30pm in the Ordway Music Theater. Tickets are available online or by phone at 651.224.4222.

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