What Makes La Speranza Unique, part 4: Leadership

When I was eleven or twelve, I loved listening to Philharmonia Baroque’s recordings of Corelli violin concerti. The warm sound of gut strings intrigued me, and sometimes I even tuned my little viola down to A415 to play along with the recording.

However, I never thought I would get to play on a baroque viola in an orchestra, much less in a chamber music ensemble. Why? Well, up until about twenty years ago, historically informed performance practice (HIPP) was more advanced in Europe but almost nonexistent in the United States. Now the idea of recreating historically accurate representations of music written hundreds of years ago has caught on in the United States, and Houston is quickly joining the ranks of cities boasting several early music ensembles. Despite the growing popularity and accessibility of the art form, the overwhelming majority of musicians of HIPP ensembles in the United States are white, and most of the directors of HIPP ensembles are men.

Yvonne Smith/Photo by Shannon Langman

La Speranza is directed by an African-American female, setting the ensemble apart from every other HIPP ensemble in Houston. Yvonne is also the ensemble’s violist.

As the only minority-directed ensemble in Houston, La Speranza has the unique opportunity to challenge the long-held expectation that HIPP musicians and directors are white, expanding and diversifying HIPP audiences nationwide. We love seeing the faces of other women and ethnic minorities at our performances who are delighted to see someone of their gender or skin color directing an ensemble. I (Yvonne) look forward to seeing how Houston’s HIPP audience expands in the next five and ten years because of the influence of La Speranza!

What else makes La Speranza unique? Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

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