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Giancarlo Guerrero: “Discipline is imperative both in our professional and personal lives”

I love that there are so many incredible musicians that call Nashville home. No wonder it’s appropriately called Music City! And in every imaginable musical genre. I regularly meet with many of my colleagues in the local musical world for lunch or dinner and compare notes. It’s inspiring to hear them share their projects and […]

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I love that there are so many incredible musicians that call Nashville home. No wonder it’s appropriately called Music City! And in every imaginable musical genre. I regularly meet with many of my colleagues in the local musical world for lunch or dinner and compare notes. It’s inspiring to hear them share their projects and at the same time, try to find ways to make music together.


As a part of our series about Nashville’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Giancarlo Guerrero.

Giancarlo Guerrero is a six-time GRAMMY® Award-winning conductor, Music Director of the Nashville Symphony and NFM Wrocław Philharmonic and Principal Guest Conductor of the Gulbenkian Orchestra in Lisbon. Guerrero has been praised for his “charismatic conducting and attention to detail” (Seattle Times) in “viscerally powerful performances” (Boston Globe) that are “at once vigorous, passionate, and nuanced” (BachTrack).

Through commissions, recordings, and world premieres, Guerrero has championed the works of prominent American composers, presenting eleven world premieres and fifteen recordings of American music with the Nashville Symphony, including works by Michael Daugherty, Terry Riley and Jonathan Leshnoff.

As part of his commitment to fostering contemporary music, Guerrero, together with composer Aaron Jay Kernis, guided the creation of Nashville Symphony’s biannual Composer Lab & Workshop for young and emerging composers.

In the summer of 2020, though live concerts were largely canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, Naxos released three new recordings by Guerrero and the Nashville Symphony of repertoire “performed with horsepower and passion” (Gramophone) by Aaron Jay Kernis, “robust performances” (New Yorker) of the music of Christopher Rouse, and Tobias Picker’s Opera Without Words. “It goes without saying,” writes Textura, “that all three are in the best of hands when their works are performed by Guerrero and the Nashville Symphony.”

Guerrero’s 2019/20 season included a thirteen-city North American tour with the Wrocław Philharmonic and return engagements with the Boston Symphony and the Bilbao Symphony Orchestra. Spring 2020 was also to have included engagements with Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Bamberg Symphony, Frankfurt Opera and Museums Orchestra and the New Zealand Symphony. While fall 2020 engagements in North and South America — including the Nashville Symphony season, his debut with the San Francisco Symphony and appearances with the Boston Symphony and Orquestra Sinfônica do Estado de São Paulo — were canceled, Guerrero did perform in a livestreamed concert with the Houston Symphony in August 2020. In the fall of 2020, and spring of 2021, he returns to Europe to perform Beethoven with the Gulbenkian Orchestra and lead the NFM Wrocław Philharmonic in eight different programs, including a recording session with the orchestra and violinist Bomsori Kim.

Maestro Guerrero has appeared with prominent North American orchestras, including those of Baltimore, Cincinnati, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Detroit, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Montréal, Philadelphia, Seattle, Toronto, Vancouver, and the National Symphony Orchestra. Internationally he has worked in recent seasons with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony, Brussels Philharmonic, Deutsches Radio Philharmonie, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Netherlands Philharmonic, Residentie Orkest, NDR in Hannover, Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as the Queensland Symphony and Sydney Symphony in Australia. Guerrero was honored as the keynote speaker at the 2019 League of American Orchestras conference.

Guerrero previously held posts as the Principal Guest Conductor of The Cleveland Orchestra Miami Residency, Music Director of the Eugene Symphony, and Associate Conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra.

Born in Nicaragua, Guerrero immigrated during his childhood to Costa Rica, where he joined the local youth symphony. He studied percussion and conducting at Baylor University in Texas and earned his master’s degree in conducting at Northwestern. Given his beginnings in civic youth orchestras, Guerrero is particularly engaged with conducting training orchestras and has worked with the Curtis School of Music, Colburn School in Los Angeles, National Youth Orchestra (NYO2) and Yale Philharmonia, as well as with the Nashville Symphony’s Accelerando program, which provides an intensive music education to promising young students from diverse ethnic backgrounds. More at www.giancarlo-guerrero.com


Thank you so much for joining us in this series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit of the ‘backstory’ of how you grew up?

I was born in Nicaragua but moved to Costa Rica in my early teens because of the civil war that hit my native country in the late 70’s. I started my musical training in Costa Rica like many kids as a post-school activity at the Youth Symphony musical programs. I originally trained as a percussionist and little by little my love of music became a full-blown passion and I am very fortunate to dedicate my life to it.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

As I mentioned before, I started in the back of the orchestra as a percussionist, but somewhere in my musical training I had to take a conducting class. I was very happy playing my drums but fortunately, the conducting teacher recognized a natural talent in me as a conductor and encouraged me to pursue it further. Honestly, I didn’t know what he was talking about, but I respected him highly and decided to take his advice. I am grateful every day that I had someone like him in my path to guide me!

Can you share with us an interesting story about living in Nashville?

I was at Kroger with one of my daughters when a nice lady approached me and told if anyone had ever told me that I looked exactly like the conductor of the symphony. I thought she was being funny and I said that I had heard that a few times. I waited for the punchline, but she just smiled and walked away. My daughter looked up and wondered why I didn’t set her straight and confirm that indeed, I was the conductor of the symphony. I’m sure she probably went home and told her family that she ran into some guy that looked exactly like the symphony conductor.

Can you share with us a few of the best parts of living in Nashville? We’d love to hear some specific examples or stories about that.

I love that there are so many incredible musicians that call Nashville home. No wonder it’s appropriately called Music City! And in every imaginable musical genre. I regularly meet with many of my colleagues in the local musical world for lunch or dinner and compare notes. It’s inspiring to hear them share their projects and at the same time, try to find ways to make music together.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There were many people along the way that made it possible for me to be where I am. This is something that I think about every day. The best way to honor their generosity is by sharing all that wisdom with the next generation.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I am always learning new repertoire and planning an exciting future for the Nashville Symphony and the Wroclaw Philharmonic. With the current pandemic, it has been challenging given that we still don’t know what the new normal will look like, especially in the performing arts. But one thing is for sure, we will thrive on the other end of this crisis.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Practice, practice, practice!! Discipline is imperative both in our professional and personal lives.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

The documentary director Ken Burns. I adore history and I’ve taken advantage of my time at home binge watching his documentaries!

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