Thriving with Consistency: My Advice to Next-Gen Latinx Artists
By Lina Gonzalez-Granados
I grew up in Calí, Colombia – the Salsa Capital of the World. Even so, I like to tell people that as “good” as I am at conducting, I’m as “bad” at dancing (or at least, for the Salsa Capital!)… and I’ve since adopted the position that skill level shouldn’t detract from the value of artistic expression. While my dance abilities may have been lacking to some, my childhood was vibrantly colored by an abundance of musical experiences that not only shaped who I am as a performer, it has molded my philosophy on the classical music industry to this very day.
There is, of course, a great honor that comes with being the first Latina conductor of the LA Opera, but it leaves me with some complicated feelings about how inaccessible the music world was to the incredible Latina artists before me. And, despite the immense progress made by those whose shoulders we stand on, it is crucial to address the many obstacles that remain — especially those that are seemingly intrinsic to our present musical world.
“Why don’t you go back? Your country would be better served if you went back.” Sentiments like these aren’t unfamiliar to me; they’ve followed me throughout every phase of my career. In the early days, such expressions were difficult to hear, especially given the lack of opportunities that accompanied them. However, I did not let this discourage me and instead continued prepping and pushing myself to what I saw as the “next level” for my conducting career, whether these chances came to fruition or not. Conversely, having to face and overcome these obstacles put me on a path that has led to an entirely different type of fulfillment; I hope that my contributions have and will continue to help pave the way for a rising generation of amazing and talented Latina artists.
In light of this, I decided to keep learning as much as I could so that when the right opportunity did present itself, I’d be the best prepared. Prior to my conducting fellowship roles at Seattle Symphony and Philadelphia Orchestra, I did just that — constantly practicing and getting ready long before there was even a clue that a position would open up.
While I was lucky enough to have access to amazing mentors and role models, there are so many other great artists out there whose names we may never know so long as equity issues continue to cut their careers short. My hope is that opportunities open themselves up to every person, of course, but especially to women of color, as they are always the last to be seen.
An important part of addressing this is to raise awareness, specifically by ensuring that Latin American music and artists get the representation they deserve. When I was studying in Boston, the music of Latinx composers was never performed unless I was the conductor. Now, when I am in a position to curate a concert program, I do my best to incorporate a healthy balance of work from living composers (especially those whose ideals and messages align with my own) alongside works from the masters of the classical canon.
Navigating complex issues of equity and diversity within this industry while simultaneously participating in it can really take a mental toll. However, I’m incredibly grateful for the immense support from my family members who have seen me through the tougher moments, but have made the “good” ones even better. Their love is unconditional — “bad” dancing and all!
Praised for her “rich, heartfelt orchestral sound” (Chicago Sun-Times), “rhythmic vitality” (San Francisco Chronicle) and “raw power” (LA Times), Colombian-American Lina Gonzalez-Granados has distinguished herself nationally and internationally as a singularly-talented young conductor. Her powerful interpretations of the symphonic and operatic repertoire, as well as her dedication to highlighting new and unknown works by Latin-American composers, have earned her international recognition.