The Show Goes On

Jose Luis Gomez continues his work as TSO music director
By Laura Latzko
Under the direction of Music Director Jose Luis Gomez, the Tucson Symphony Orchestra has expanded its repertoire and gained greater community support.
The company will continue this work through 2024 under Gomez, as he recently signed a four-year extension to his original four-year contract.
Gomez is the 17th music director for the company, which has been around 90 seasons.
As musical director, he has conducted a sold-out performance of Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 9” and concerts featuring guest artists Yo-Yo Ma and Pink Martini.
He led the orchestra in a performance for 100,000 people during the All Souls Procession finale and during an international radio broadcast celebrating the 100th anniversary of Leonard Bernstein’s birth.
Gomez says while he has achieved a lot while working with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, there is still more he would like to do.
“The fact that things are going so well with the orchestra, it was a natural call for both of us to still pursue much more of those dreams we had at the beginning but to develop them even more,” Gomez says.
When he came to Tucson, his goals were to improve the quality of the orchestra, connect more with the outside community, produce works by new composers, work with orchestras around the world and commission pieces for the orchestra.
“I think the room for development was what was attractive to me. There were many things that could be done with the orchestra. When you have the opportunity to inflict those changes and to be part of those changes, I think that that’s the most attractive thing for any person in my position,” Gomez says.
He has been able to accomplish many of his goals but plans to take them a step further.
“Looking forward, it would make me very, very satisfied and happy to see the orchestra growing artistically, but also connecting more to the audience, getting out there and getting people excited about the orchestra they have in their own town,” Gomez says.
While working with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, Gomez also guest conducts for companies around the world. During the upcoming season, he will travel to Alberta, Canada; Texas; Louisiana and Berlin, Germany.
Gomez says his work as guest conductor has shown him the differences between companies around the world.
“Each place has its own identity. When I go to different places, each one has their own way of making music, a certain repertoire,” Gomez says.
Gomez always strives to facilitate growth on an individual level and within the orchestra with which he is working.
“Anywhere in the world you go, there’s always something to improve, always something to make better. Being a musician, being an artist in music means that you have to always do more and more,” Gomez says.
The Tucson orchestra recently collaborated with orchestras in Spain, Japan and Mexico on a commissioned trumpet and orchestra concerto by Arturo Marquez.
The orchestra has recently commissioned works by emerging musicians who started out in the Young Composers Project, a year-long experience in which students have a chance to work with musicians, composers and conductors. S. Maggie Polk Olivo and Scott Ordway are two examples of alumni the orchestra has worked with on commissioned pieces.
Gomez says they are given the freedom to explore themes that have meaning to them, and thus far, audiences have responded positively to their pieces.
“The audience knows they are from Tucson and they want them to succeed. You feel the sense of ownership between the audience and the orchestra,” Gomez says.
The Venezuelan conductor gained international recognition when he won first prize at the St. Georg Solti International Conductor’s Competition in Frankfurt in 2010.
Gomez began his career as a violin player in the El Sistema training program in Venezuela and became the concertmaster of the Youth Orchestra of Zulia State by age 11.
Before coming to Tucson, he has served as assistant conductor for the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra and principal conductor for the Orchestra 1813 Teatro Sociale di Como.
Gomez has conducted Frankfurt Opera’s production of “La Boheme;” the Sacramento Philharmonic Orchestra’s concert version of “La Traviata;” Teatro Sociale di Como’s renditions of “Le Nozze di Figaro,” “Don Giovanni” and “Cavalleria Rusticana” and the State Opera’s productions of “Don Carlo” and “Norma.”
On March 8, the composer will make his Tucson Symphony Orchestra performing debut as first violin on Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Serenade for Strings.”
The 2018-2019 season also offers performances of Gustav Mahler’s “Symphony No. 5,” Andrew Lloyd Webber and Stephen Sondheim music, Jean Sibelius’ “Symphony No. 2” and music inspired by natural elements.
In celebration of the 250th anniversary of Ludwig van Beethoven’s birth, the Tucson orchestra will present the composer’s first eight symphonies during the 2019-20 season.
The season will feature classical, masterworks and pop concerts, including a one-night engagement featuring opera singer Renee Fleming; a pop program with The Monkees’ Micky Dolenz; Gustav Mahler’s “Symphony No. 2 (Resurrection);” a classical concert with Grammy Award-winning guitarist Sharon Isbin; a concert dedicated to “E.T. the Extra Terrestrial;” a holiday show with the Texas Tenors; a commissioned work from Young Composers Project alumnus Robert Lopez-Hanshaw; a masterworks production combining ballet, opera and classical music; a tribute to composer Elmer Bernstein with a guest appearance from his son; a pop concert featuring Broadway stars Susan Egan and Doug LaBrecque and a tribute show dedicated to the music of Aretha Franklin.
To find out more about the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, go to