Gustavo Ubeda

Gustavo Ubeda


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2015Saint-Saëns: Cello Concerto No. 1, Op. 33, A minorConductor
2015Mendelssohn: String Octet, Op. 20, E-flat majorArtistic Director
2015Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 3, Op. 56, A minor (Scottish)Conductor
2015Lebrum: Oboe ConcertoConductor
2014Garinheh Comic Opera in 3 actsConductor
2014Vivaldi: The Four SeasonsConductor
2014Komitas: Armenian Folk Songs for String OrchestraConductor
2014Grieg: Holberg Suite, Op. 40 (for orchestra)Conductor
2014Beethoven: Symphony No. 5Conductor
2014Rossini: L'Italiana in Algeri OvertureConductor
2014Castelnuovo-Tedesco: Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra no. 1Conductor
2014Beethoven: Symphony No. 3, Op. 55, E-flat majorConductor
2014Elgar: Serenade for StringsConductor
2014Tchaikovsky: Serenade for Strings, op. 48Conductor
2014Shostakovich: Chamber Symphony Op 110aConductor
2013Schubert: Symphony No. 5, D. 485, B-flat majorConductor


I don’t know how I came to be or have any recollections of my arrival in this world. All I know is that I was born in São Paulo, Brazil. I also remember that music was always present in my life from a very, very tender age. My parents used to leave the radio on, broadcasting classical music in my room near my cot. My mother is Brazilian. She studied a little music when she was a child and collected great amounts of records of classical music from different composers. My father was a Spanish expat. He was an artist, and was always listening to music, particularly Beethoven, Brahms and Berlioz whilst in his studio. He always said that he wished to have learned how to play a musical instrument. When I was 10 they both decided that I should learn to play an instrument. I wanted to play either the piano or violin. So, when I went to my local music school; there were lots of piano teachers and… no violin tutors. So my father made the choice for me to learn an instrument relatively easy… he said: “I am not buying a piano for you… What we do with it if you give up in six months?”. So it was decided there and then that I would learn the classical guitar. Fortunately, there were classical guitar teachers to choose from. As it proved to be I didn’t give up after 6 months. I realised that I was made of steely perseverance.

Few months after I started learning music, Brazil suffered one of the many fanancial crisis and when my parents couldn’t afford to pay for lessons, one of my aunts took the burden to pay for them. As my family were not able afford to go on holidays away from our town, I spent the summer months practicing the guitar in order to keep boredom away. I made extremely rapid progress and was playing Grade 8 level pieces within a year after beginning lessons. I was around 11-12 years old then. It was on that summer, among a very difficult fanancial situation that I finally discovered my calling in life. I decided that I would become a musician when I grew up. My parents, though, had different plans… they wanted me to go medical school! I would be a failure if I followed their decision… imagine a doctor who can’t stand the sight of blood! So, I rebelled… I was to become a musician whether they liked or not! That of course wasn’t a decision that my parents took lightly, but in the end they accepted, or at least they pretended that they did. Moreover, they had to. It was non negotiable and I wasn’t wiling to compromise on that decision.

I was about 16-17, at the time I took this great decision, when I began studying with my first great mentor. Tino Andersen was the first positive and meaningful influence, musically speaking, in my life. I had many negative ones too. Everyone has. He came into my life almost by accident. I was waiting for my guitar lesson when this person speaking portuguese with a very strong foreign accent approached me and asked if he could attend my lesson. Then, he heard me playing and after many informal lessons he decided that I would be his first full time guinea-pig. My musical and technical levels were greatly raised. After a year studying intensily with him, he had to go back to his native Norway. I followed him there a few months later and after further six months of having almost a lesson every day he deemed me prepared to go and pursue further studies in London at Trinity College of Music. What I never quite understood to this day is that he never, ever charged me for a single lesson. I am forever grateful to his altruistic gesture. Hope one day he can clarify his decision. Although I believe that the best stories are best left unexplained…

I spent 4 very difficult years at Trinity. I struggled with the English language, and it took me time to adapt to a new culture. Musically I was developing well though. I recall that I started to attend concerts regularly, particularly of the London orchestras. During my third year at college, I picked up an injury on my left arm. One day it was normal, the next I wasn’t able to play what I had practiced the previous evening. I spent the 4th and final year trying as best as I could, to produce a good end of year performance. But, I knew that my days, and dreams, to become a soloist were over. I never fully recovered from this injury, althought I still can play. As predictable as it is, the usual denial and depression followed. One day, after walking aroung in London in a numb state for a few hours asking myself what happend to my life, I attended a concert were I first heard a performance of a Mahler Symphony. I was blown away! The impact of Bruckner was as dramatic. In that semi depressive and hearing such wonderful music I felt inspired and was determined that I wasn’t going to let a little detail such as a career ending injury stop me from following my calling.

Then I was finally reborn as a musician. I started to study conducting. Firstly with Alexander Ingram in London. Afterwards I went to live in Russia for two years were I studied in the class of Pyotr Gribanov and Georg Erzhemsky. They eventually became my mentors. They really challenged me to shape and have my own artistic goals. Just imagine having teachers who actually respected you as musician. It was also a case of doing a 5 year course in just 2 (in Russia the undergraduate course of conducting is 5 years). I graduated conducting Bruckner 4th Symphony as my first professional engagement with the Rostov Academic Symphony Orchestra. A baptism of fire which was very rewarding and taught me so much. My greatest recollection was crying my eyes out after the performance and having most musicians of that orchestra hugging me backstage. I guess I was overwhelmed by the Symphony’s emotional impact. I think, looking back, that it was like finding closure with my injury that stopped me from playing. Also it was about exorcising my biggest demons. Even as I write this I cannot help but feel emotional. As it was always with my life, against the odds… it defines me as a human being and, I suppose, as a musician.

Later that year I was the finalist of a Competition in Spain. The following year I made my debut in my native Brazil with 2 different orchestras, the Unicamp Symphony Orchestra and the Goiânia Symphony Orchestra. Both were rewarding experiences and learning steps that I took in mastering the art. This followed by concerts in Spain with the Salamanca Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Karaganda Symphony in Kazakhstan. I then became Music Director of the Harrow Symphony Orchestra, an amateur group. I spent the next 7 years with them and improving their musicianship. It was rewarding to see how everything turned out on concert day. It was like extracting water from stones, but what a reward afterwards. I decided then to resign to spend more time with my two children. So, currently I am on a Sabbatical and only the future knows where the next chapter of my career will write itself. But one thing is for sure… I will be back to write it.

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CV & Repertoire

Musical Work Jump-in ready? Company Year
Saint-Saëns: Cello Concerto No. 1, Op. 33, A minor Harrow Symphony Orchestra 2015
Mendelssohn: String Octet, Op. 20, E-flat major Audeat Camerata 2015
Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 3, Op. 56, A minor (Scottish) Harrow Symphony Orchestra 2015
Lebrum: Oboe Concerto Harrow Symphony Orchestra 2015
Garinheh Comic Opera in 3 acts London Armenian Opera 2014