that's what students call Germán Gutiérrez--not because he demands it,
because he's earned it. Teacher, conductor and director of TCU's fledgling
Center for the Performance of Latin American Music, he's brought to campus
his own brand of Latin salsa, spicing up TCU's already tasty music department.
Maybe it's the passion for music that flowed through his childhood town
of Ibagué, known in Colombia as Ciudad Musical--the musical city. Or the
spontaneous singing and performing that burst from his family when they
gathered for noon meals.
it is that drives Germán Gutiérrez, director of orchestras and TCU's Center
for the Performance of Latin American Music, it's catching. The students
embrace it, the surrounding community has lauded it, musicians from around
the world are reveling in it.
be Gutiérrez' enthusiasm and love of beautiful music and his desire to
share it with a vast audience. "It" might be the passion that led to the
formation of the center and the spring Latin American Music Festival,
a two-day celebration of music that established firm friendships across
the equatorial divide.
an integral part of our culture," he said of the Latin American traditions
he treasures. "We do not conceive of a party without live music."
It was quite
a party he planned on campus, this Latin American Music Festival. One
that featured workshops, lectures and live performances by composers and
artists from Mexico, Peru, Spain, Argentina, Panama, Brazil and Colombia.
And though it exposed the locals to music scarcely known in the United
States, the extensive international relationships they developed are even
more valuable, said Music Chair Kenneth Raessler.
between cultures is irreplaceable in an educational setting," Raessler
said. "The tremendous networking accomplished by the festival will provide
us with the very finest musicians in those countries who will come here
as students." Gutiérrez made it clear when he took the job as conductor
of orchestras two years ago that he would organize such an effort, Raessler
said. "One of the joys of Dr. Gutiérrez is that if you say yes, he makes
a serendipitous moment when he was teaching and studying at the Tolima
Conservatory of Music, Gutiérrez would have been a performer today, not
in great demand for his conductorial skills. He recalls that he was "totally
dedicated to his violin and composition" at the conservatory, where his
mother was a leading soprano. (Gutiérrez jokes that his father, a pharmaceutical
salesman, is a drug dealer in Colombia.) The young musician's fortune
changed during a conducting workshop and competition he was sitting in
on as an observer. The conductor was trying to get the future conductors
to lead the choir through some harmonies. None could. In frustration,
the conductor asked the observers if anyone wanted to try. Gutiérrez did,
was successful and quickly moved to the other side of the group.
the end I won first prize," he said, laughing about the incongruous beginning
to a career that would take him around the globe and back to TCU where
he has settled with wife Sylvia, a guitarist and singer, and sons Nicolas,
5, and Gabriel, 3.
of a leading-edge Latin American music effort is a wonderful opportunity,
Gutierrez admits, but working with the students is the chord that rings
true in his ears.
them," he said of the young musicians that keep him from accepting prestigious
conducting positions. "I am always pleased to take music to a higher level,
but it is more satisfying to get applause when you are conducting students
because you had the opportunity to teach them to play.
tell them, You are playing the notes, but aren't convincing me that you
feel the music.' Then we do it again and it's totally different. I think
the audience can capture that."
So can the
students who say the youthful man with the rich Latin accent treats them
as musicians, not students, leading them by example and positive reinforcement.
"I respect him immensely," said senior Roderick Branch. "I was eavesdropping
at a party and heard him say he had turned down positions with professional
symphonies because his first love was education, the students.
teacher and a professor, but before that he's a real artist and a real