BY TRACY ZOLLINGER TURNER
Alejandro Gómez Guillén’s love affair with music started early. The artistic director and conductor of the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra (BSO) pointed toward a violin at a symphony concert when he was 4 years old and said, “I want to do that.”
Born in Bogotá, Colombia, his affinity for music wasn’t difficult to predict. His great grandfather was a music teacher. His grandfather founded the Bogotá Philharmonic Orchestra. His parents were accomplished conductors and singers. While much of the country was plagued with violence, living in Bogotá, Gómez Guillén was insulated from the mayhem. “Colombia is an amazing place with such a contrast of magic and realism,” he says.
When he was in high school, Gómez Guillén’s family moved to Fort Worth, Texas, where he attended Texas Christian University. He later earned dual master of music degrees in violin performance and orchestral conducting from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Before coming to Bloomington last September, Gómez Guillén was an assistant professor of music at Colorado Mesa University, where he led the CMU Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Orchestra.
His reasons for moving to Bloomington were twofold. The first reason is personal. Gómez Guillén’s wife, Sarah, is earning her doctorate in historical performance, violin, at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. The two met as students in Colorado, and joining the BSO meant they could live in the same city once again.
The other reason is professional. Gómez Guillén has found the BSO to have values and vision that closely align with his own. “My mission is to spread classical music as a vehicle for transformation,” he says. “Classical music doesn’t live only in a concert hall with people in tuxedos. It is an important, human, deeply affecting thing.”
During the 2017–18 season, in addition to his position at the BSO, he will also work as associate conductor for the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. His focus in Bloomington will be on building community and reaching new audiences. He plans to hold focus groups and seek more collaborations with other organizations that can bring new elements and depth to BSO performances. “We are trying to create experiences of music, not just a concert,” Gómez Guillén says.