Figueroa joins Lynn University’s Conservatory of Music

The acclaimed artist will conduct the Philharmonia starting in November; makes his debut performance as artist-faculty violin Sept. 26

Published Sep. 18, 2013

Guillermo FigueroaWhen the Lynn University Philharmonia takes the stage for its third performance this November, there will be a new conductor at its helm. Guillermo Figueroa joins Lynn University’s Conservatory of Music as music director and conductor of the Philharmonia.

He will also serve as artist-faculty violin and will make his debut performance in that role Sept. 26, 7:30 p.m., at a violin/piano recital in the Wold Performing Arts Center. His sister Ivonne Figueroa, a concert pianist, will be joining him.

You could say music is in his genes. He studied with his father and uncle at the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico, and is a member of the fourth generation of professional musicians. 

In his father’s generation, there were 11 professional Figueroa musicians active, he said. All 11 performed together in concert at Carnegie Hall in 1981.

Worldwide experience

Lynn music students, as well as the community at large, will have the benefit of Figueroa’s talent and worldwide experience which has included international appearances as guest conductor with the Toronto Symphony, Iceland Symphony, the Baltic Philharmonic in Poland, among others; U.S. appearances with numerous symphony orchestras, the Juilliard Orchestra and the New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center; and collaborations with many of the leading artists of our time, including Itzhak Perlman, YoYo Ma,  Placido Domingo and our own Elmar Oliveira, who was instrumental in Figueroa’s decision to come to Lynn.

“I have been close friends with Elmar for 30-plus years and we have worked together in concerts,” says Figueroa,  “He was always telling me about this wonderful university in Florida and wanted me to be a part of it – but I had a job.“

But the time was finally right and Figueroa was invited to come to an audition at one of Lynn’s Philharmonia concerts last February. “Everybody liked me a lot, and the next thing I knew I had a job,” he said. 

Figueroa said he and Jon Robertson, dean of the Conservatory of Music, clicked at first sight and says “I am so very grateful for the trust he has put in me.”

And Figueroa is already impressed with Lynn’s talented students.

“Five minutes into rehearsal of a difficult piece, I had to stop. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing,” he said. “They were so good, so professional. I felt like I was conducting at Julliard or Curtis as they were every bit as good as that. I love conducting them.”

The Figueroa Project

Following his last stint as director of an orchestra, Figueroa took the opportunity to start The Figueroa Music and Arts Project, an innovative organization that combines music with various other art forms i.e. video, theater, dance, drama and even concerts in costume. 

He wanted to try a different approach. “These things are impossible to do within the confines of a traditional symphony orchestra,” he said. “The point is that we live in very different times than when classical pieces were written.”

The goal is to give audiences some kind of enhancement to their experience and not detract from it – and he says, it’s a “blast for him.” He hopes to incorporate some of these innovative techniques at Lynn. “A student orchestra gives me more latitude and we’ll be able to do wonderful things. 

Conductor vs. violinist

A renowned violinist, Figueroa was concertmaster of the New York City Ballet, and a founding member and concertmaster of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, making more than 50 recordings for Deutsche Grammophon, and has given the world premieres of four violin concertos written for him. 

When asked why he was reluctant to choose his favorite between his roles as conductor and violinist.

“I love them both, but if I could only do one, I’d pick conducting. I’ve played violin since I was 5 years old and played everything I’ve wanted to play, but I’ve only conducted for 25 years,” he said. “[Conducting] allows you to impart what you've learned to a larger group of people than as a violinist. I love the idea of putting together a piece from scratch, like a puzzle.” 

Plus, he says, “I have the best seat in the house. It’s unbelievable to be in that place with a full symphony orchestra in front of you. It’s addicting.”

More about Guillermo Figueroa

In addition to his new full-time role as Lynn University’s music director and conductor of the Philharmonia and artist-faculty violin, he is artistic director of The Figueroa Music and Arts Project and music director of the Music in the Mountains Festival in Durango, Colo. He is the former music director of both the New Mexico Symphony and the Puerto Rico Symphony where he performed to critical acclaim at Carnegie Hall in 2003, the Kennedy Center in 2004, and Spain in 2005. He has traveled and played in two thirds of the world and collaborated with prestigious musicians, one of the most memorable at a gala concert with Placido Domingo in Puerto Rico.

A Berlioz specialist, he created the most comprehensive Berlioz Festival in the U.S. in 2003 for the composer’s Bicentennial; and has conducted the premieres of works by important composers, such as Roberto Sierra, Ernesto Cordero and Miguel del Águila. An advocate for new music, Figueroa and the NMSO won an Award for Adventurous Programming from the League of American Orchestras in 2007.

He is a regular performer at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Music in the Vineyards in California, and Music from Angel Fire. Figueroa has recorded the Three Violin Sonatas by Bartok for the Eroica Classical label, with pianist Robert Koenig, and an album of virtuoso violin music by for the NMSO label, with pianist Ivonne Figueroa.

He can discuss: his extensive experience as a conductor, violinist, and the Figueroa Music and Arts Project.