It is a cool, sunny afternoon and José Isidoro Ramos is juggling his observation of Jalisco Philharmonic (OFJ) musicians practicing for an upcoming concert at Guadalajara’s Teatro Degollado, a tête-à-tête with new OFJ Patronato President Rodrigo Ibarra at a cafe outside the theater, and an interview with this newspaper.
“It is appropriate for musicians to focus on themselves,” Isidoro emphasized in a relaxed moment. “But for me, it is important to talk about my job with the orchestra, and not my own background and accomplishments.”
Isidoro has plenty of bragging rights. The OFJ is the seventh orchestra he has managed and he is an accomplished guitarist as well. But what really excites him, besides simply talking about music, is his role as artistic manager for the orchestra – “one of the best in Mexico,” he underscores – as well as helping state authorities reach their goals of using music to strengthen social ties and increasing the love of music among those not already in the first row.
“One of the things I do is function as a sort of translator, or a bridge, between the OFJ conductor and the administration. Maestro Medina mostly develops the musical programs and I might suggest a soloist to contact and assess the musical needs of each program, meaning the budget, the musicians, the instruments and getting the rights. At the same time, we are also trying to improve the balance of the programs – gender balance and the balance between composers and musicians from Jalisco, Mexico, Latin America and abroad.” Focus on the budget and money is the bailiwick of OFJ General Manager Arturo Gómez Poulat, Isidoro noted.
Although Isidoro said his primary focus is on the orchestra (including promoting the group on social media and in the press and striving to increase ticket sales), he finds performing as a guitarist helps him in his managerial role.
“In the past, sometimes I stopped performing, but now I keep it up, because it gives me legitimacy with the musicians. When I tell a musician to take care about something or when I congratulate them, if they realize I’m a musician myself, they respect what I say.” Isidoro also noted that his ability to read musical scores, an important part of his formation in the UNAM School of Music (Facultad de Música de la Universidad Autónoma de México), also tends to ensure that musicians take him seriously.
Isidoro mentioned that he is proud of the OFJ’s development of a schedule of master classes given by visiting musicians, such as one in March by stellar U.S. horn player David Cooper, before performing a Strauss concerto at Teatro Degollado.
“Musicians from all over the country attended,” Isidoro noted proudly. They only had to fill out an online form for the four-hour class, which cost just 50 pesos.
Another such master class is set for this weekend with German-Canadian trumpeter Jens Lindemann, who is performing Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto in the final concert of the season.
In a new effort to broaden love of music, Isidoro said that orchestral trips to small communities in Jalisco are coming up. The excursions dovetail with outreach to other special groups of state residents, such as handicapped people.
Asked about the abundance of Venezuelan musicians in the OFJ, Isidoro explained that he doesn’t see this as a problem. “It is a situation that already existed when we started [after the change of state government in 2019]. And now they are very well connected in Jalisco. Many have become citizens or married and had children or teach in all types of institutions. So they are planting good seeds here.
“There are no openings now for musicians,” he added, “but when there are, auditions will be open.”