Gustavo: Friends from the twin cities of and the state of Minnesota. Gustavo Mancilla here and it is with great pleasure to be with you with. This is a special interview in which we have the pleasure to have with us a musician, a local talent based in the twin cities directly from Mexico City, our friend Novelli Jurado, whom we have known for a long time and who is with us today. Novelli, how are you?
Novelli: I am well, thank you. It is a pleasure to be here and thank you very much for the invitation Gustavo.
Gustavo: Hey Novelli, we had not seen each other for a long time. We have spoken on a few occasions; however, today I would like to get to know a little more about you because after reading your biography, wow! All the work you have done in the musical realm is very impressive. From reading your biography I see you were born in Mexico City; you are a musician and resident talent of Minneapolis. You are awarded and internationally exposed to music and classical composition. Novelli Jurado is a close contributor to our sister organization VocalEssence. Novelli please expand a more as we talk about your musical trajectory.
Novelli: Yes, of course, I started in music at a very early age. When I was 7 years old, I started with drums classes, and it was funny because the musical training I had before the academic was basically listening to the music that my parents listened to. And thank God they have always had, you can say, a very broad taste for different musical genres and always giving very prominent examples. For example, the music of Brazil and very select authors, so I grew up listening to that. When I was seven or eight years old, I said to my dad, I want to be a musician and I would like to study drums. That is how I started in music, in percussion, and then when I was 15 years old, I switched to the piano, and I began to study piano. At the age of 20 I started studying classical composition at the conservatory and at the same time studying audio engineering and recording but with a focus on classical music.
Gustavo: Very well, do you mean that in your family there was no precedent of musical training? Are you the first in your family to study music?
Novelli: Yes, I am the first in my family to study music. As for a musical precedent in my family there is a one, well we can call it my roots. My father wanted to be a musician and my grandfather did not let him. My grandfather said to my dad, “You can’t be a musician, you have to study a normal career”. However, my father held on to let us call it that curiosity in his mind, that tickle that he wanted to be a musician. He is talented but was not able to be a musician. So, thank God for my support, that is, when I said, “Hey dad I would like to be a musician”. He replied, “Of course son, yes, go for it”.
Gustavo: As a recording engineer, he has worked with renowned musicians, orchestras, and ensembles such as Lang Lang, Kirk Milsur, VocalEssence of course, Javier Camarena, Arturo Márquez, Alondra de la Parra a quite impressive body of work. Please tell us about your experience as a recording engineer.
Novelli: Yes, of course, I am very captivated by the technical aspect of music. In other words, how music is captured to be transmitted. I studied in the United States, Brazil and in Mexico. I specialized in classical music recording courses because to record classical different techniques and equipment are used in comparison to recording rock or record jazz music. I spent many years preparing myself until I had the opportunity to venture into several important projects in Mexico City. A recording engineer who opened the doors for me was my mentor the recording engineer Humberto Terán. Humberto Terán for many people is the best recording engineer for classical music in Mexico, and one of the most important in the world. He opened the doors for me, he supported me and from then on, I was invited to participate in various projects and have had the privilege of being with big names in classical music and in record production.
Gustavo: Is there a certain value in the language of classical music that perhaps other types of music cannot offer? What was different for you when you started to get involved in classical music?
Novelli: Well, what I was looking for in the beginning was … What I was looking for was to compose for films or for image. In Mexico City back then, there were not as many music schools as there are today. So, after researching I realized that the base for someone that wants to make music for movies is classical music. This is because you must learn to orchestrate, you must learn the tools used in film music, which in this case is often used by the symphony orchestra. So that is why I started studying classical music because it was a very important tool and a solid foundation.
Gustavo: Very good, please tell us about your first contact with Minnesota. I am not sure, but it seems to me that it was with VocalEssence, right?
Novelli: Yes, my first contact with Minnesota was in 2013. American conductor Philip Brunelle went to Mexico to hold auditions and to select composers to come and work with choirs from the United States. I auditioned in Mexico and was fortunate enough to have been selected along with another composer. And that is how I came to participate in the songwriting residency. For those who do not know of Cantaré, it is a residency program for musical composition where VocalEssence brings Mexican composers to create new music for choirs in the twin cities. The main objective is for the composer to become a cultural ambassador for Mexico, and through music the new generations of Americans can learn and know the richness of the Mexican culture. So that was how I came to the United States for the first time by means of the Cantaré program.
Gustavo: From there you have developed a very close relationship with VocalEssence in a very special way. Would you like to share?
Novelli: With pleasure, I always tell the staff and the people at VocalEssence that they totally changed my life. Yes, on a professional level, but also on a personal level because it was on this trip in 2013 that I met my wife, Michelle. We met and from there we were in a long-distance relationship. Then we got married and I came to live here in the United States. So, it literally changed my life, and I am super grateful to them, because without them many things would not have happened that have happened.
Gustavo: Very good, and this program VocalEssence program Cantaré is so special because… well, your example is perfect. The Development of a family through that musical relationship between Mexico and the United States, which you have also taken to other cities like Chicago. How does the Cantaré residency and that type of collaboration work with other markets like Chicago?
Novelli: That is a very interesting question because this project and this program can be applied anywhere in the United States. There is a choral organization called Chicago A cappella, which are obviously based out of the city of Chicago. Chicago A cappella took the initiative of VocalEssence and implemented this singing project in Chicago. The model is the same where composers go and meet schools, choirs and compose special music for choirs. However, the key is to be completely in Spanish. This is because the idea is that they soak up Spanish language, and they have also been quite successful, quite successful replicating the Cantaré program. That was in Chicago, and I also have had the privilege to go to Rochester Minnesota to implement this project.
Gustavo: Very well, it is expanding everywhere. But, well, unfortunately this concert or this activity with Cantaré could not be completed last year for obvious reasons due to the global covid-19 the pandemic. However, the activity with the VocalEssence organization has continued and the invitation for our communities to get involved is there constantly. VocalEssence has several concerts this year, have you had the opportunity to see them through their new On Demand program?
Novelli: Yes, I have seen all their concerts. They are all great and was especially impressed by the first one. The quality of production, the objective and the aesthetics that made that first concert was extremely impressive and it was all done wonderfully. They are doing a great job in all aspects. Right now, VocalEssence has done something temporary which is breaking into the digital media field, and the truth is they are doing a great job, congratulations.
Gustavo: Do you think this non-physical approach through the media streaming over the internet might it be a more practical way for the community to get a closer look at the work VocalEssence is doing?
Novelli: Yes totally! Because the impact is greater, digital media has no limits, no borders.
Gustavo: Another thing that has impressed me and throughout all these years, is the work VocalEssence has done and continues to do to reach out to the LatinX community here in the twin cities. Surely you are part of this committee of leaders of the LatinX community here in the twin cities whose mission is to let everyone know about those concerts, the activities, and the inter-family development activities through VocalEssence concerts. Can you talk to us a bit about this LatinX advisory committee?
Novelli: Sure, VocalEssence is an organization that, unlike others, tries to listen to the population and to people outside the organization. In different areas, they have committees. I have been fortunate enough to be invited to a couple of those committees and it is very interesting because one would think that we are only there to share opinions, but I have seen that an opinion can have a transcendental impact and is applied. This something that gives it a lot of value because they are really listening to society. They are listening to what is happening within their organization. The Another important factor is the impact they are having in different communities such as the LatinX community with the Cantaré program that has been ongoing for more than 12 years now. The Witness program, which is it for the African American community that is over 30 years old. I believe that they have very innovative in many aspects for a long time, and that is something that they are applauded for.
Gustavo: I would love to ask and before closing this conversation Novelli to which of course we thank you. That you give us a couple of special reasons why we should learn more about the great work that you are mentioning that VocalEssence does.
Novelli: Sure! Well, I invite you all to enter the VocalEssence website. It is vocalessence.org /bienvenidos. Because there they have so much information available on different projects that are in being held at the same time. These projects have a lot of human quality, above all things. Yes, music is important, but if behind the music there is no message that will unify and help the community, well, music can get a bit technical. However, if the music has a message like what VocalEssence has with their projects helping African Americans, the LatinX community, single mothers etc. This gives the music a lot of value, an extra, an extra value. So, I really invite you to follow some of the VocalEssence projects because it is worth it.
Gustavo: Very good, speaking of that direct interaction, surely you cannot wait to take your little one to one of these amazing concerts and have him feel that thrill of seeing these singers live, right?
Novelli: Exactly, yes and the truth is, I am almost certain that the first concert they see with an audience, many people in the audience will cry, a lot. Including me maybe, because after a year of not being in a concert with a choir, to suddenly arriving and listening live singing or listening to an Orchestra concert is going to be something fascinating. Because it reminds you that we can be in the same space, we can vibe together, we can listen together. That is called community communion without having to be religious. We are in the same space for the same purpose. So, the truth is, yes, my son is 1 year 3 months old, and I am sure that that will happen soon.
Gustavo: VocalEssence is a great reason to introduce our children to the world of music. If you see your children with an interest music or for singing, or if you simply would like an activity to enjoy as a family and would like to be present to events that our community is developing then VocalEssence is for you. The VocalEssence information is on the screen and later we are going to present you with the events list along with dates of the concerts. You can find this information and see all those concerts of the 2021 season through your computer online with the VocalEssence On Demand series, which is fabulous, interesting and is very positive for our LatinX families here in the state of Minnesota. Novelli, it has been a pleasure, I thank you very much for your time and thank you for letting us know a little more about you and your work with VocalEssence. Is something else you want to add to this conversation?
Novelli: To reiterate that I very much appreciate of your invitation and the invitation from VocalEssence. I send a hug to all of you, as well as the VocalEssence staff. And it is very nice to see that so many things are being done right now during this time where people need to be closer to art and music. So, it is an applause and a big hug to you all.
Gustavo: Very well, we invite you to learn more about VocalEssence On Demand. Thank you. Thanks, Novelli!