Nico Gutierrez will always remember his family’s trips back home to Colombia when he was a child growing up in Fort Worth.
Now, the rest of the world can live those same trips through his music with a special musical creation he wrote especially for his father, Fort Worth Youth Orchestra Music Director Dr. German Gutierrez entitled La Catedral de Sal (the Salt Cathedral).
Making the piece even more special is that it will be performed lived for the first time in a world premiere by the FWYO at its annual Spring Concert at Bass Performance Hall on Feb. 29 at 2 p.m. The performance of two string and two orchestra ensembles is in celebration of the 20th anniversary of Dr. Gutierrez as FWYO music director.
“Growing up, we would always go to Colombia and we would always go to the Salt Cathedral. This is a very special project,” Nico said. “I grew up with the Fort Worth Youth Orchestra, and it’s even more special that they are performing it.”
The FWYO Board of Directors commissioned Nico to compose the piece, which began a decade ago. It began as a competition idea that never came to fruition for that, but was performed by Nico during a piano recital at TCU in 2015.
“It had always been my dream to turn this into a full orchestra piece,” Nico said. “And now, this is the opportunity to turn it into what it’s meant to be.”
Nico, who currently lives in Chicago, is a composer and conductor of concert, film, and video game music. He began his musical studies at age seven and began composing at age 12.
Nico’s compositions have been premiered, performed, and professionally recorded by members of the Chicago Symphony, Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, the Orquesta Filarmónica de Bogotá, Fort Worth Youth Orchestra, Texas Christian University (TCU) Concert Chorale, TCU Symphony Orchestra, and the Texas Boys Choir. His works have been performed and received positively in the United States, Mexico, Colombia, Spain, France, Switzerland, Germany, Israel, Syria, Lebanon, China, and Japan.
As a performer, Nico grew up playing the piano and cello, as well as conducting several orchestras and singing as a professional boy soprano. He was a long-time member of the Grammy award-winning Texas Boys Choir. He toured extensively with the choir across the United States, performing in many prestigious concert halls including a solo at Carnegie Hall.
Although Nico and his brother grew up in the United States, their parents took them to visit family in Colombia each summer to ensure that they didn’t lose its culture and traditions. The piece tells the story of Nico’s first exciting visit to the Salt Cathedral in Zipaquirá near Bogotá, Colombia.
Originally built as a chapel for the workers in the salt mine, the chapel was later moved 600 feet underground in the salt mine and expanded to become the awe-inspiring Salt Cathedral now known as “the first wonder of Colombia.”
“There are no words to describe these feelings, my son wrote a piece that he mentioned to me when he was 12,” Dr. Gutierrez said. “The fact that I’m going to be able to bring that alive is indescribable, and to do so with the Youth Orchestra makes it even more incredible.”
The FWYO performance will feature 335 musicians, ages 8-19, from 39 cities in North Texas. Tickets for the event are $8-$45 at www.fwyo.org. For information, call 817.923.3121.
“The annual performance at Bass Performance Hall provides our professionally trained young musicians the experience of performing classical orchestral music in a world-renowned venue,” said Lee Warren, FWYO’s executive director.
An overview of the performance will include such numbers as:
*Junior String Orchestra: “Ludwig’s Dance Party” by Beethoven, “Sinfonia in A” by Telemann, and “Castle Lore,” traditional.
*String Orchestra: “Ocean Storm (La Tempesta di Mare)” by Vivaldi, “Lullaby” by William Hofeldt, and “Variations on a Well-Known Sea Chantey” by Richard Stephan.
*Philharmonic Orchestra:” “La Belle Hélène” by Offenbach, “Viola Concerto in C Minor (Mvt. III)” by Bach/Casadesus, and “Legacy” by Robert Longfield.
*Youth Orchestra: “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2” by Liszt, “Night on Bald Mountain” by Modest Mussorgsky, “Cello Concerto in E Minor Op. 85 (Mvt. IV)” by Edward Elgar.
And, of course, the Youth Orchestra will perform “La Catedral de Sal.”
“The Fort Worth Youth Orchestra offers young musicians a unique opportunity for growth,” Dr. Gutiérrez said. “We know the study and performance of music develops the skills necessary to succeed in life, including learning to solve problems and make decisions, to think creatively, to build self-esteem and self-discipline – and to accept responsibility to complete tasks from start to finish.”
Dr. Gutiérrez has also has served as Director of Orchestras and Professor of Orchestral Studies at TCU, as well as Director of TCU’s Latin American Music Center and biennial Latin American Music Festival since 1996. He is a frequent guest conductor of professional orchestras in the Americas, Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Oceania.
Under his baton, the FWYO has also performed internationally in Fort Worth’s Sister Cities, Nagaoka, Japan, and Reggio Emilia, Italy. In 2017, Maestro Gutiérrez led the Youth Orchestra on a tour of Europe that included performances at Salzburg’s Mozarteum, Eisenstadt’s Esterházy Palace in Austria, and a concert in Prague, Czech Republic. In June 2020, he will lead the Youth Orchestra on a performance tour of Spain (Salamanca, Madrid, Barcelona, and Valencia).
The FWYO has won local, national, and international recognition as one of the finest youth orchestra programs in the United States.
“Our board of directors is thankful for the extraordinary leadership of Dr. Gutiérrez, our music director for the past 20 years,” FWYO Board President Eddie Lesok said. “We are thrilled that Dr. Gutiérrez will conduct FWYO’s premiere ensemble, the Youth Orchestra, in the world premiere of La Catedral de Sal at our Spring Concert.”