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Alumni Spotlight: Conducting Across the Globe

A conductor with business savvy, Felipe Tristán enjoys an international career.

Felipe Tristán has established himself as a successful conductor since graduation, garnering conducting accolades in genres ranging from opera and symphony to ballet and musical theatre in countries around the world. A proud University of Houston alumnus, he credits his experience at the Moores School of Music (MSM) as one of the best experiences of his life, a true turning point that helped launch his life in classical music.

“UH brought students from different music worlds together — orchestra, band, opera and music education — and it was a rush to be surrounded by such exceptional, friendly, driven people every day,” he says. “The remarkable faculty helped create a warm, welcoming community that supported us, made us feel at home and inspired us to live up to our artistic potential. It was also my first experience living and working in the United States, and I fell in love with this energetic country and the warm Houston community.”

Learn more about Tristán’s UH experience, the importance of business and entrepreneurial skills in his professional conducing career and his myriad experiences in the Q&A below! 

Where has your music career taken you since graduation?
I’ve been fortunate to perform around the world in countries like Germany, China, Switzerland, Canada, Mexico, Panama. Currently, I am based in New York City, where I’m the associate conductor of the Brooklyn Symphony Orchestra, music director of the Repertory Orchestra at the Manhattan School of Music and the music director of the Symphony Orchestra of the Americas

Is there one thing that has surprised you about a career in the arts that you didn’t expect?
Excellence in our craft is expected, no question about it. But also, the artist of today must be business-savvy and foster skills that go beyond the artistic realm. Realizing this wasn’t necessarily a surprise, but recognizing just how important these duties are was a big surprise. Fortunately, more and more schools are now adding entrepreneurial and business skills to the curriculum, which will help artists all the more when they launch their careers. 

What accomplishments in your career do you feel most proud of?
Performing at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center were incredible experiences. Additionally, graduating from the Moores School of Music is something that I’ve always been proud of, as it gave me the skills I needed to launch my career in the US. 

Are there specific skills or things you learned at the Moores School of Music that you find valuable in your career now? What are they?
Initially, I remember feeling lost or like a “small fish in a big pond” when I came to the Moores School of Music, with such a robust music program. But the encouragement I received from teachers and my fellow students, and the great progress we made as musicians, showed me that hard work pays off. Now — and especially in New York City — I know that hard work, discipline and consistency are all essential skills in our profession. I’m grateful for all the teachings and mentoring from my professors at MSM. 

What is coming up for you in the future that we should watch for?
I’m very excited for a collaboration I’m doing with two Broadway singers this fall, in an outdoor concert titled “Broadway Sinfónico” at a prestigious arts festival in Mexico. We expect up to 5,000 in the audience. Additionally, this season I will guest conduct the New Amsterdam Symphony Orchestra for the first time. 

2019 – 2020 will be my final year as the associate conductor of the Brooklyn Symphony Orchestra and, in my last year there, I’m honored to be leading the orchestra’s first tour to Mexico in 2020. I’ll be conducting a lot of opera moving forward and, hopefully, also ballet, which has been a dream of mine for years. And, last but not least, I hope to come back to Houston soon!