By: Ma. Fernanda Soria @mafersoria
We talked to Alex Jimbo, a young 24-year-old violinist, member of the Guayaquil Symphony Orchestra and, recently, member of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra.
Most children played ball, rode tricycles or cried for an ice cream when they were two and a half years old, but Alex not only did that. Since he was just a little kid he showed an affinity for music, he played a guitar and a drum. His mother, a violinist from the symphony of Guayaquil and a professor of music at the Antonio Neuman conservatory, realized the special look Alex had in his eyes when he saw a violin, so she gave him a tiny version of the stringed instrument, specially made for him.
Since then, Alex began studying violin at home with his mother, he demanded more classes because he was passionate about learning how to play the instrument. When he was only four, Alex gave his first concert accompanied by a piano and did “a little tour”, which included the opening of the Plaza Mayor shopping center, located at the north of Guayaquil.
As he sips his coffee with cream, Alex says that when he was four, his mother used to teach at a music academy in Alborada (a neighborhood in Guayaquil), there she used to give violin lessons using the Suzuki method (which includes a number of different volumes for the progressive teaching of an instrument. The initial volumes contain simple folk melodies, starting with the famous “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and continuing with works of classic authors like Bach, Beethoven, Brahms and Schumann). One afternoon, she took Alex to accompany her while teaching a student who was learning the eighth volume but could not play the melody correctly. “My mom told me that when I got home, I took my violin and started playing that song alone, no one told me to do it and I was just learning the first volume,” he recalls.
Jimbo was musically educated at home until the age of five, the classes with his mother prepared him to offer his first solo concert in the Guayaquil Symphony when he was only six years old, becoming the youngest soloist in the history of Ecuador, “I think noone has beat my record yet,” he said laughing.
Later, when he was seven, Alex entered the Antonio Neumann conservatory, where he continued to take classes with his mother until the age of 11, then changed to the Rimsky Korsakov Conservatory, where he continued to refine his technique until he turned 15 and began to attend to the Sergei Rachmaninov Conservatory, where he remained until he finished high school. He later travelled to United States to study his Bachelors in Music Performance and he is currently completing his college education at UESS, where he attends the senior year of his career.
Alex was at the prestigious Verbier Festival in Switzerland two years ago, to get there he had to fight for a place in an audition. The competitions are essentially auditions where musicians go to give an “exam” and hope the judges appreciate their musical skills and give them an approval. “You have to assume the trip to the auditions’ costs yourself, the European level is very demanding, they only give you 10 minutes to audition, there are people who play a minute and the judges yell next … They heard me for 15 minutes,” he says.
The YouTube Experience
“Being a musician is a work of considerable merits, there are always festivals and competitions, such as the YouTube Symphony,” says Jimbo.
The first YouTube Symphony Orchestra played at Carnegie Hall in New York on April 15th, 2009. In October 2010, YouTube called for the second time all the musicians in the world and encouraged them to upload a video audition to join the orchestra, which will perform at the Sydney Opera House in Australia on March 20th this year. “The thing that motivated the most to apply to YouTube Symphony was knowing it would be in Australia, I immediately thought of kangaroos and the theater” says Jimbo. At just two hours of the deadline for uploading the video audition, Alex printed the music sheet, he practiced for five minutes and hit the record button. A week later, he received a mail informing he was a finalist in the competition.
After the jury and viewers voted, Alex managed to fill one of the 30 spots for violinists in the orchestra. “This is a unique opportunity, because once you get to belong to the symphony of YouTube, you can not reapply.”
When he comes back from Australia, Alex plans to prepare for the Chaicovski violin concert he will give in the second half of the year.
- Besides playing the violin, Alex plays the viola, but he does not consider himself a violist, since he has not played a major recital to win that title.
- He says his nationality has helped him win auditions since there are not many Ecuadorian musicians on international orchestras ” they are always Americans, Russians or Chinese,” he says. He also confessed his nationality gives problems when getting visas.
- He participated three times in the music competition organized by Centro Ecuatoriano Alemán (Ecuadorian-German Center). The first time, he was four years old “there were two rounds and I didn’t even pass the second, then I participated when I was seven, I went to the second round and was about to win but I didn’t. I finally managed to win at age of 13 in the youth category,” although there are other awards he has won, including the “Young Soloist ” in Quito, Jimbo considers the plate he received from the Centro Ecuatoriano Alemán especial because he had tried to win since the age of four.