The Pied Piper: Maestro Horacio Franco

Screen Shot 2016-04-16 at 3.26.31 PMBy Marcia Chaiken

Horacio Franco, the Honorary Artistic Director of Amigos de la Musica Huatulco, is known throughout the Huatulco community for his musical virtuosity, extraordinary generosity, and involvement in teaching the youth of this area to love music. His concerts here, ranging widely over the repertoire of music for the recorder, are attended year after year by enthusiastic audiences. And his educational programs are presented on the local radio and in schools.

The Maestro’s commitment to musical education is based on his own early childhood experiences. Born into a large, relatively poor family in Mexico City, Horacio was ten years younger than any of his siblings. Since he had little in common with his brothers and sisters, he was a lonely child who spent many hours reading. At age 8 he decided he wanted to be an Egyptologist, and his passion for studying Egypt lasted three years.

At age 11, Horacio and his classmates were given recorders to play in school and his teachers recognized his innate talent for music. Soon after, he heard a school friend play Mozart on the piano. He remembers that moment as an epiphany- “Thunder came into my soul.”

Returning home, Horacio announced that he was going to be a classical musician. His parents and siblings were far from supportive and insisted that music could not be a career. As his concentration on music continued they were worried that his life was doomed. Their concern intensified when, at age 13, he was accepted as a student at the National Conservatory of Music in Mexico City. Ultimately he promised his parents that he would not study past age 23 unless he had a lucrative career in music by then; otherwise he would follow any career they wished.

Horacio studied violin at the Conservatory since there was no program for the recorder. At the time, the recorder was considered a child’s instrument, not prestigious enough to include in a serious curriculum. He says his violin playing was mediocre, perhaps because age13 is relatively late to begin studying the instrument. However his ability to play classical music on the recorder, which he practiced in his free time, was improving year by year. When he suggested to the conductor of the conservatory chamber orchestra that he perform as a soloist, the conductor was aghast and pointed out that Horacio’s ability to play the violin was far from soloist proficiency. “Not the violin,” Horacio told him, “the recorder.”

It was the first time anyone at the conservatory realized he not only played the recorder but was a virtuoso of pure genius. A solo performance at the prestigious Bellas Artes theater was soon arranged and met high praise from other musicians and critical acclaim. During this concert and its aftermath, he came to the conviction that he was gifted in his genes with extraordinary abilities for music and for performing before an audience. He tells budding musicians they must reach a point of a similar self-realization if they are ultimately to be successful in the music field.

At age 16, Horacio left Mexico to study at the Sweelinck Conservatory in Amsterdam since they had one of the finest programs for studying the recorder. He learned Dutch to take his classes and says his Dutch is even better today than his English. At the same age, he began to teach the recorder to children, carrying out his dual passions of playing and teaching classical music. Now he is a professor at Mexico’s National Music Conservatory, a frequent performer, a recording artist, and a conductor.

His advice for aspiring young musicians is two-fold. Be sure you are genetically gifted – not just talented. Be sure you love playing and your love is deep enough so that total commitment to music will never seem like a sacrifice.

This year, as he approaches his sixtieth birthday, Maestro Franco fervently wishes to maintain good health so that he can continue to play, conduct and teach for many more years. His dream is not to retire when eligible, and for that he needs continued health. An underpinning of his generosity is his private slogan “Holding on to too much money makes people ill.”

Marcia Chaiken conducted an interview with Maestro Franco in December, 2013.

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