You were concertmaster in the Youth Orchestra of Zulia State, part of El Sistema, at age 11. What were the most important things you learned from those young experiences?
I think I would say that we learned and experienced the joy of making music together, alongside the discipline, passion and dedication that makes this art so unique.
What were the highlights of those years?
I remember vividly that first tour we did to play in our country’s capital; Maestro José Antonio Abreu came to the concert and I personally met him.
José Luis Gomez. Photo © Anna Meuer
I understand you also sang in a heavy metal band. Did you have to choose between that and orchestral music?
Hahahaha. Well, let’s call it “singing”. I sure didn’t have to choose any kind of music as music was part of my family from the very beginning. My father is a professional musician and he imprinted in my brother and me a passion for orchestral music from the very beginning, but moreover for music in general.
After studying in New York, you had a career as a violinist, but what led you to explore conducting?
I always had a curiosity for the role of the conductor, and especially being aware of all the details that are present in an orchestral performance. I think that sense of awareness was with me during my whole career as a violinist and that led me to conducting for sure.
Who was your greatest conducting influence?
Without doubt one of my biggest influences is my mentor, conductor Paavo Järvi. I got the chance to learn from him the technique and the rigorous detailed approach to all the different styles of orchestral music.
How did it feel to win the Georg Solti Competition in 2010?
I always consider myself very fortunate to have been recognised with such an international prize, but also I have been very lucky to have had great guidance from different people right after winning it, so it helped a lot to shape my career.
What have been your proudest achievements since then?
Many of course, and many more to come. I think the fascinating thing about this profession is that you never stop learning and developing. Working with different orchestras and repertoire is one of the things that makes you grow and get better and better. Being the music director of a professional orchestra, as I am now with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra in the US, that would be one of the achievements that I am very proud of.
You’ve also been building a career as an opera conductor – was that something you were always interested in or did that come later?
It happened at the same time, because opera repertoire was always very attractive to me, the complexity of the performances combining staging, singing and orchestral playing is fascinating, and also very rewarding.
José Luis Gomez. Photo © Anna Meuer
In Melbourne you’re conducting A Bernstein Celebration with musicians from the Australian National Academy of Music. What is the most rewarding thing about working with student orchestras?
I love the energy and passion that youth always has. And since I myself am a product of youth orchestras, working with them is a great opportunity to share my experiences and make music together.
What ideas did you want to keep in mind when putting this program together?
We wanted to showcase the virtuoso part of orchestra playing, so, many pieces have the chance to do that, especially the Variaciones Concertantesby Alberto Ginastera. Combining it with the opportunity to pay tribute to Maestro Leonard Bernstein’s 100th anniversary – it all came together as a great mix of all Americas, South and North celebration of music.
How important is Bernstein’s legacy to you personally?
He represented, for my generation, the figure of a complete artist and communicator. Not only a world famous conductor, but also an amazing composer of different music genres and a great educator and human being, that fought always for truth and mankind fraternity.
José Luis Gomez conducts the ANAM Orchestra in A Bernstein Celebration at Melbourne Recital Centre on April 27.