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Tatted, Mexican-American Female Conductor: They Told Her She Couldn't, So She Did

Culture & Community By O. DELGADO8514 views
Tatted, Mexican-American Female Conductor: They Told Her She Couldn't, So She Did
Pic courtesy KQED; PBS News Hour

"Maybe you should go back to your country - because it's not going to happen in mine." 

A professor told the East L.A.-born Chicana to quit; she didn't.

Born and raised in East LA, Jessica Bejarano grew up in a rough part of town. Her mother hustled to provide for Jessica and her older brother and younger sister, collecting bottles and cans or fixing broken appliances to make ends meet. Classical music wasn't a part of her life.

At 10 years old, Jessica was introduced to her school's music program. She says it "saved her life."

"Kids are arrested, kids are murdered, kids are in prison...I defied those statistics because music kept me on a straight path."

Jessica played the trumpet in high school, but she wasn't introduced to classical music until college. She said she was drawn to it, and decided to become a conductor, getting a scholarship to the University of Wyoming and her master's from UC Davis.

Despite her education and success, she wasn't taken seriously because of her gender and background. A professor once told her:

"Maybe you should go back to your country - because it's not going to happen in mine."

But the doubters only made her more determined.

"Instead of feeling deflated, I would take that 'no', that negative energy, and use it to catapult me further."

And her determination paid off; Jessica currently conducts the San Francisco Civic Symphony, one of few Mexican, and fewer women, conductors in the nation.  She thanks her mother for her perseverance and determination: "She's the rhythm and reason for my success."

Jessica dreams of someday conducting one of the U.S.' major symphony orchestras. Only one of the nation's top orchestras has ever been conducted by a woman, but we're betting she'll have company soon.

"There is more work to be done."

Los mexicanos no se rajan.

 

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