Maestro Hector Guzman

Celebrating a Life and a Calling

A third-generation musician, he was just 17 years old when he conducted his first symphony at the Conservatory of Music in Mexico City. It was Mozart’s “Requiem in D Minor” and “I felt like a fish in water,” he recalled. Young Hector Guzman had found his place in the world. He’d found a home for his calling, to make music to stir the soul.

Maestro Hector Guzman, music director of the Plano Symphony Orchestra (PSO), will celebrate his 35th anniversary with the orchestra November 18. It was 35 years ago on a November evening that a small group of 35 musicians, led by Guzman, offered the gift of classical music to the City of Plano. Starting as a chamber orchestra, the symphony has grown to a full, professional symphony comprised of 75 musicians.

Maestro Hector Guzman at the Charles W. Eisemann Center in Richardson, where the Plano Symphony Orchestra performs most of its concerts // photo Kathy Tran

Speaking of his early life, Maestro Guzman describes himself as an ambitious kid. “I always wanted bigger things,” he said. At age five, he began learning to play the piano, and by age 13, when his feet could reach the pedals, he moved to the organ. A celebrated organist, he is also a gifted and an internationally award-winning conductor and music director.

Guzman sees music as a divine calling, saying, “You do not choose music. Music chooses you.” With all the raw talent and passion young musicians have, it is still important to have mentors and guidance. “I always had people who helped me, teachers who saw something in me,” he said. For him, those mentors included the late Eduardo Mata, conductor emeritus of the Dallas Symphony, and Anshel Brusilow, who led a distinguished career as a violinist, conductor and music educator.

When asked what makes a great conductor, Guzman said, “It’s a never-ending process of learning. Take for instance, Beethoven’s 9th. Every time I sit down with that music, it looks new. I learn something new with every piece. To be successful in music, or really anything, you must be willing to open your mind. When I was younger, I tried to imitate certain interpretations of other conductors. Now, I don’t do that anymore. I make each piece mine, and I let my musical instinct take over.” His favorite symphony is Rachmaninoff’s “Symphony No. 2.” “I’m keen to the romantic period. I interpret that music well. It’s in my blood,” he said.

Guzman performing with Plano Symphony Orchestra // photo Larry Pollis

For Guzman, the symphony’s crown jewel is its work with youth. “If we’re going to reach certain goals in life,” he said, “all of us need help. That’s why teachers are so important.” Plano ISD music teachers work with the Plano Symphony “like a fine, swiss watch” and after months of collaboration and planning, the Symphony hosts 12 concerts in February and March and welcome more than 12,000 young musicians, impressing upon them the value and beauty of music.

When asked what this 35th anniversary means to him, he posed the question, “I wonder what the next 35 years will look like for Plano?” Of his legacy, he hopes to be remembered for his integrity, professionalism and musicianship. His dream for the Plano Symphony is to one day achieve the stature of the Dallas Symphony and to have a permanent home.

Maestro’s Guzman’s 35th Anniversary Celebration will be held Nov. 18 at the Charles W. Eisemann Center for Performing Arts and will feature Vesselin Demirev on violin and the Grammy Award-winning Mariachi Los Camperos from Los Angeles.

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