Monday, March 11, 2024

Salomé Ospina in Conversation with Christian Baldini

On March 17, I will have the pleasure of conducting the Grieg Piano Concerto with Salomé Ospina with the Camellia Symphony Orchestra in Sacramento, as part of our "Rising Stars" concert series. On the same program we will also feature the Sibelius Violin Concerto with Suni Norman. Below is an interview with Salomé:

Christian Baldini: Salomé, welcome, it has been very fun to have you in rehearsals with us and to make music with you. Tell us, what are some of your favorite things about the Grieg Piano Concerto? What would you say to someone who's never listened to it? What should they listen for? What will they encounter in this music?

Salomé Ospina: Thank you so much for having me! It has been an honor to play with the Camellia Symphony orchestra and you for the past couple of weeks. I honestly love every single moment in the Grieg concerto. One of my favorite moments in the entire piece is during the slow part of the third movement. I have a solo with the first cello accompanying me as well during this section. I was actually unaware that it was only the first cello until the first rehearsal with the orchestra. This is so meaningful to me because my mother, Maria Hoyos, plays first cello in this orchestra. This duet is so beautiful and I believe it encapsulates all the love and support she has given me over the years. I also really enjoy the last two sections of the third movement because this is the "grandioso" section of the piece. I get to accompany the brass players for a great solo and it is the moment where the tension from the entire piece is finally released. I would describe this piece as adventurous and beautiful. I would listen to the recurring themes especially in the first and third movement. They are everywhere! They get subtly changed throughout the piece but are truly resonant. They will encounter a beautiful journey through this music. I hope that they really enjoy this piece!

CB: You started playing the piano as a young child. Who have been your most important mentors, and why?

SO: Some of my most important mentors have been: Kirsten Smith, Helen Mendenhall, Tatiana Scott, Betsy Collins, and Joe Gilman. They have all guided me for many years with private instruction and are one of the main reasons that I am where I am today musically. They have really helped me develop my technique and love for music as well. I am so grateful to have had these wonderful people in my life.

CB: What are other works and other composers you love playing,  and why?

SO: I really enjoy playing Brahms and Chopin because their harmonic structure is just so beautiful. Also the storytelling that goes on within their pieces is incredible. I recently played the Brahms Piano trio no. 1, and it was incredible because of the complex harmonies and especially because of the interaction between the strings and the piano as well. I also really enjoy listening to Sibelius’s Symphony no 5. 

CB: Do you play other instruments? Do you branch out into other music styles besides classical?

SO: I do not play any other instruments. My mother tried to teach me cello at the age of three, but I decided that piano was what I preferred. I am deeply passionate about playing jazz as well as classical. I love to play in both combos and big bands and I am starting to begin composing as well! I also enjoy playing a variety of styles from latin america with my parents such as boleros, cha-cha-cha, salsa, and many more! I love to listen to music by Hector Lavoe, Duke Ellington, Oscar Petterson, Oscar De Leon and many more!

CB: What is a typical day like for you? How much do you practice in addition to all your other activities? You are still in high school, right?

SO: I am actually still a junior in high school! I typically spend my time in jazz band and concert band at school as well as in some other challenging classes. I typically go home after lunch time at school and usually have a rehearsal with a jazz combo or a private lesson. I try to practice for 2 to 3 hours in a day, but it really depends on how much schoolwork I have. I love to spend time on the weekends with my friends as well. 

CB: What are your plans for the future? Where would you like to see yourself in ten years?

SO: I hope to become a music teacher or a French or Spanish teacher. I really am not sure about where I see myself in ten years. I can envision myself branching out into many things. However, I see myself the most as a teacher of some sorts, and hope to be a performer on the side. 

CB: Both of your parents are musicians, right? Your mother is of course Maria Hoyos, our wonderful principal cellist with the Camellia Symphony. I am sure it will be extremely special to both of you to be playing this concert together. How has it shaped you to come from a musical family?

SO: Being around music constantly is such a privilege for me. I am so grateful to have such wonderful, loving parents. My mom plays cello with the Camellia Symphony and my dad plays saxophone and flute. Being around parents that are practicing exposed me to so much music from a young age and inspired me to become who I am now. This concert means so much to both of us and I can’t believe that I am going to be able to play as a soloist in a concert with my mom as the first cellist. This has been my mom’s dream for many years now, and I am very excited to be playing!

CB: Are you fully bilingual? How have languages shaped or influenced you as a person and as a musician?

SO: Yes, I actually only speak Spanish at home with my parents! Being around two different cultures at once has influenced my view on the world and especially on my values. I try to get the best from both cultures and try to often combine values in order to try to achieve a more balanced lifestyle. I have been introduced to so much music because of them and because of that, I have a love for many different genres. 

CB: Thank you Salomé, I look forward to making music with you and sharing your talents with our audience in Sacramento very soon!

SO: Thank you for this opportunity and for having me!

Salome Ospina is a junior at Rio Americano High School. She currently studies with Kirsten Smith for classical piano and Joe Gilman for jazz piano. She has also previously studied with Helen Mendenhall, Tatiana Scott, Betsy Collins, and Craig Faniani.

Salome debuted as a soloist with the Saint Saens Piano concerto no 2 in November 2022 with the “Sinfónica Joven de Colombia” in Medellin. She has been a part of the Placer County Youth Orchestra, and has performed with the Sacramento Youth Symphony as well. The Summer of 2022, she toured Austria and the Czech Republic with the Rio Americano Jazz and Concert Band. Salome enjoys accompanying other students for performances. 

In February, she went to New York to participate in the Charles Mingus High School Jazz Competition with a small jazz combo from Rio Americano. Salome is a part of The New Traditionalists, a jazz combo that has gone to perform in Orlando and New Orleans. In 2023, Salome was selected as one of 6 people nationwide for the Monterey Next Generation Women in Jazz Combo. This group had the opportunity to perform at the Monterey Jazz Festival in September 2023 and Berklee College Music January 2024. Salome was chosen as one of the winners for the 2024 National YoungArts Award for jazz piano. 

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