Mérida, Yucatán — Halfway through its fall 2017 season, the Yucatán Symphony Orchestra (OSY) remains “the best-kept secret of Mexico.”
A recent story in Punto Medio underscored the OSY’s success by looking back at its history, and getting to know one of its musicians — the kind of musician that the organization initially had difficulty attracting.
“I always had as a goal to become a member of the Yucatán Symphony Orchestra, says bass player Juan Manuel Uicab Cruz, 37, in an interview with Punto Medio.
Uicab Cruz joined the orchestra in 2013 after a career in pop music and training at the music school of the Unified Philharmonic Union of Yucatan.
“I did not think of being a classical double bass player. I always imagined playing other genres, like jazz,” says Uicab Cruz.
Upon entering the OSY, he recalled that it was like applying for any job.
“First there has to be a vacancy like in any other job,” said Uicab Cruz.
That was just the beginning. Then, Uicab Cruz channeled his energies for an audition that exuded excellence.
Seeing his name printed on the OSY program makes Uicab Cruz strengthen his commitment to excellence. “Music provides magic and feelings to the public, but the musician must concentrate to make very good music that the audience can enjoy.”
Bringing high culture to the Peninsula for 13 years, the orchestra today has 64 members: 16 Yucatecans, 20 nationals and 28 foreigners. Of the foreign musicians, 15 became naturalized citizens, adopting Mexico as their new home.
The OSY began to write its history in 2002, when the state authorities decided to create a symphony.
“We were faced with a great challenge: how do we do it if we do not have musicians?” recalled the director general of the institution, Miguel Francisco Escobedo Novelo.
The OSY debuted on Feb. 27, 2004, with 41 musicians: eight Yucatecans, four nationals and 29 foreigners. A national call for musicians went badly, says Escobedo Novelo.
So the OSY issued a call on a website where all the world’s orchestras announce their vacancies. They received resumes from Russians, Bulgarians, Italians and French. The salary offered to foreigners was $1,000, back when the dollar was under 10 pesos.
On OSY salaries today, compared to orchestras in other parts of the country, musicians get less pay than they should, he admitted. When musicians arrive here from other regions, it’s because they choose to live in Yucatán.
“We have been told that OSY is the best-kept secret in Yucatán and the country,” Escobedo Novelo adds.