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Stay Classical: Symphony Conductor Making It Happen Amidst The Odds Against Her – Yes, “HER”(!)

Maestra Jessica Bejarano thanks the audience at the end of her presentation.

It’s 2019, and the San Francisco Civic Symphony is being led by 38 year old Mexican-American female conductor, Jessica Bejarano – (80s slow clap moment). Her upbringing wasn’t easy and her journey to being a conductor wasn’t either, but her name will be marked in the classical music world as one of the first female conductors – watch out now…

PBS’s series Chasing the Dream shines a light on poverty and opportunity in America. In the interview, Bejarano narrates the struggles of growing up in East L.A. Her mom was a single parent trying her best to make ends meet, working three jobs, recycling cans and bottles, and selling refurbished appliances at the swap meet to provide for her family. Through the struggles, school bands gave Bejarano a sense of safety and comfort. It was later on in an exposure to an orchestra class at Pasadena City College that made her fall in love with the world of classical music.

“I’m sitting there playing the trumpet, playing this repertoire and hearing the music around me; it was just like, Oh my God. What is this? What is this?? I was instantly drawn to the music, to the ensemble, to the setting, to the whole experience of it.”

Determined to become a conductor and music instructor, she received a scholarship to University of Wyoming and subsequently earned a Master’s degree at UC Davis. Sounds like everything was working in her favor right?

She was once asked if she was serious about being a conductor, to what she responded, “Yeah, absolutely,” but the response she received after was, “Maybe you should go back to your country because it’s not going to happen in mine.”


Setbacks such as the conversation she had above drove Bejarano to continue her journey to becoming a conductor more passionately. We’ve all had moments when we feel like we’re the only ones believing in ourselves and what we do at that moment can define our future – do we give up or do we go even further than our initial goal? Bejarano only went further.

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As principal conductor, her next step could be to conduct one of the major orchestras. Whether it be Chicago, L.A. Phil or abroad, we hope she continues to go further.

To enjoy the beautiful sounds of the San Francisco Civic Symphony conducted by Jessica Bejarano, check out their schedule.

Did we mention the orchestra is made up of 90 amateur musicians? They are from various backgrounds, so if you feel like the city gets too overwhelming or you’re tired of binge watching x, y, and z on Netflix? Pay them a visit. You might end up falling in love with the experience as well (much easier than Bumble).

Need more inspiration? Check out Bejarano’s full interview below.

#MondayMotivation #CaliProud



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