UHV student wins contest, conducts song with San Antonio Symphony

San Antonio Symphony conductor Ken-David Masur, left, poses with University of Houston-Victoria freshman Ricardo Herrera, winner of a guest conductor contest, and fellow UHV student and friend Quinton Tschirhart.

It’s a big leap from high school drum major to conductor of a metropolitan symphony, but that’s exactly what one University of Houston-Victoria student has done.

Freshman Ricardo Herrera won a contest sponsored by the San Antonio Symphony to conduct a song during a holiday concert. And with baton in hand, Herrera led that town’s finest musicians on Friday in the “Russian Dance” from “The Nutcracker Suite.”

“It was an awesome feeling,” he said of conducting in front of more than 2,000 people at the Majestic Theater in downtown San Antonio. “The musicians were very welcoming, and it was a great experience. I wanted to do another song.”

The San Antonio native won the symphony’s contest by submitting a one-minute video of himself mock-conducting a song from operatic group Il Divo’s album “The Promise.” Winners received a box seat, tickets and a conducting lesson from the symphony’s resident conductor, Ken-David Masur.

“I submitted a video, but I wasn’t sure I would win,” he said. “All the submissions were from teenagers. I found out I was chosen on Dec. 14 when I was at work at DeTar Hospital. I was so excited when they called and told me I had won.”

While always interested in music at Harlandale High School in San Antonio, a visit to the symphony in 2007 to see tenor superstar Placido Domingo sparked his interest in conducting.  

“I had to go to school to be a high school drum major, and I have studied opera on my own,” he said. “With orchestra conducting, it’s more complicated, and there is more free movement and interaction with the orchestra than in marching band.”

Herrera said he will not rely on music to make a living, though he would like to minor in it.  

“Ironically, I’m studying biology because I would like to get into medical school,” he said, adding that he has his eyes on a university with a postgraduate medical program and an active arts program.

Once his part in the symphony concert was over, Herrera immediately posted excited updates to his Facebook page from his smart phone: “Wow!!!! THAT WAS AMAZING I JUST FINISHED OMG!!!!”

He said the experience of conducting a symphony will stay with him a long time.

“It was exciting to meet other conductors, and conducting was such a blast,” he said. “The entire symphony was looking at me, and I tried to block the audience out.”

Jack Fishman, president of the San Antonio Symphony, said the organization was pleased that Herrera could be part of its outreach efforts.

“The San Antonio Symphony is expanding our use of social media, and this was the first time we tried a Facebook conducting competition,” Fishman said. “Maestro Herrera did a fabulous job, and the audience loved him.”

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.

Ken Cooke 361-570-4342