On October 30, the Houston Symphony participated in the Magnolia Park Día de Los Muertos Festival for the first time. This annual celebration occurred in the historic Latino neighborhood of Magnolia Park. We spoke with some key participants about their experience and involvement with the festival.
From left to right:
Alex de Aguiar Reuter (Senior Associate, Endowment & Administration), Jenny Zuniga (Director, Patron Services), Dr. John Cisneros, Alex Gallardo, Genaro Cibrian, Ed Schneider, Rovion Reed (Associate Director, Education & Community Engagement)
Rovion Reed, Houston Symphony Associate Director of Education & Community Engagement, shared details on the Symphony’s involvement in the festival.
Houston Symphony: Tell us about the Houston Symphony’s involvement in the Día de Los Muertos event at the Magnolia Park neighborhood?
Rovion Reed: The Houston Symphony’s involvement in the Día de Los Muertos Festival included a performance by our Community-Embedded Musicians and an on-site marketing tent to share performance information, give out Houston Symphony merchandise, and connect with the people attending the festival.
HS: Why is it important that the Houston Symphony be involved?
RR: The Houston Symphony involvement in the Día de Los Muertos Festival was important because it is in our strategic plan to grow our reach, relevance, and profile in Greater Houston and beyond. This, at times, means that we must meet the community where they are. By supporting local cultural efforts like the Día de Los Muertos Festival, community members can begin to see that the Houston Symphony finds what they do to be important not only for their respective communities but also for Houston as a whole.
HS: This event was in conjunction with the Houston Symphony’s Hispanic Leadership Council. Talk to us about that involvement.
RR: Dr. John Cisneros, the chair of the Hispanic Leadership Council (HLC), approached us about participating in the Día de Los Muertos Festival as an effort to increase the symphony’s visibility and relevance in the Hispanic Community of Houston. John and the HLC provided us with decorations for the Houston Symphony marketing tent. In addition, HLC members helped with the passing out of Houston Symphony merchandise.
Dr. John Cisneros
Chair, Hispanic Leadership Council
Dr. John Cisneros, chair of the Hispanic Leadership Council, gave his perspective on the event.
HS: What does Houston Symphony's involvement in the Día de Los Muertos Festival mean to you?
John Cisneros: I was delighted by the Houston Symphony's commitment to host an information booth and schedule a performance by its Community-Embedded musicians at the recent Día de Los Muertos Festival. The involvement perfectly represented the Symphony's commitment to making its music and programs relevant and accessible to all segments of the Greater Houston community. To the festival, it was a focused effort to recognize and focus on the Latino community, a recognizably growing demographic in Greater Houston. More than anything, however, the Houston Symphony's involvement delivered an important message: The Houston Symphony Is For Everyone!
HS: Can you tell us about your experience at the festival?
JC: The festival was a time for me to reflect on my loved ones who have gone before me, whose legacy continues to guide me in my daily life, and how I interact with the world around me. I always enjoy the annual festival, but this year's festival carried special meaning for me. My passion for classical music was passed on to me by my parents, especially my mother, and being able to celebrate her memory and impact on my life through playing a very small part to have the Houston Symphony represented at the festival juxtaposed my passion with service to my community.
HS: As the newly appointed chair for the Hispanic Leadership Council, what is your vision for the Houston Symphony's relationship with the Hispanic community?
JC: My vision for the Hispanic Leadership Council is to develop ways and means that engage the Hispanic community. I would like the council, collectively and individually, to be Houston Symphony ambassadors; whereby, making the Hispanic community aware of the symphony's rich array of musical offerings and fostering interest among the community to attend symphony performances. To advocate for the symphony and carry the message: The Houston Symphony Is For Everyone.
Finally, we spoke with one of our Community-Embedded Musicians (CEMs), Rainel Joubert, about his experience performing at the festival.
Rainel Joubert (left) and David Connor (right)
HS: What pieces did you play? Tell us about the cultural significance.
Rainel Joubert: We started with a selection from the movie Coco called "Remember Me", and then we played “Besame Mucho,” a well-known Mexican bolero. It's one of the classics played all around Latin America. After that, we played “La Bikina,” also a familiar piece within the Mexican tradition. Then of course we finished with “México Lindo y Querido”, which is the "Pride of México".
Dave and I were aware that we were playing for a Mexican holiday, which is like Halloween, but not quite. Día de Los Muertos is about remembering family and reuniting with loved ones who've passed. We were inspired by this holiday and wanted to honor that tradition by playing traditional Mexican songs.
HS: This was the largest public live performance by the CEMs since the pandemic. How did it feel to be performing live again at such a significant cultural event?
RJ: It was emotional and super nice. We felt great celebrating this holiday with so many people.
HS: How did it feel to engage with the audience with both Spanish and English? Do you think this should be done more often?
RJ: I think it should be done more often because we were in a community that's usually not represented the way they should be but has grown to be culturally strong in Houston and America. So we should definitely do more translating. I really enjoyed it. And I think the response from people was great.
When we started, there was a handful of people, but [after I started speaking Spanish], everybody came around and listened.
The Houston Symphony was honored to participate in this annual festival and looks forward to future events. You can catch the Community-Embedded Musicians performing next week at the Houston Public Library. Learn more details here.