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Meet Jackson Guillen, Mauricio Oliveros, Rainey Weber, Mayara Velasquez and Yanira Soria

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jackson Guillen, Mauricio Oliveros, Rainey Weber, Mayara Velasquez, and Yanira Soria.

So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
We came up with the idea of a group that would promote the music of Latin America (Classical and traditional popular) in 2016. Mauricio Oliveros and Jackson Guillen discussed the possibility of forming a String Quartet that would have that specific focus. We thought that the city had many great chamber music organizations that performed music from Latin America, but to have a group that would maintain that focus and would have the willingness to go even deeper in that mission would be great for a city with a high percentage of its population being Latinx.

Later as that idea evolved, we decided the string quartet set up would somehow limit the amount repertoire we could present (promote), so we decided to add a piano to the group and call ourselves an “Ensemble.” With a piano we would have the ability to perform music using different instrumental configurations: String Quartets, Piano Quintets, Piano Trio, String Trios, Duets, and even solo works. That way we expanded tremendously the amount of repertoire we could learn and promote. We also agreed that it would be great to add music from the Iberian Peninsula so we have performed many works by composers from Spain.

Then the five of us, Jackson (Honduras), Mauricio (Colombia), Mayara (Venezuela), Yanira (Spain), and Rebecca (USA) (former member) had a first meeting to plan our debut concert and come up with a name for our ensemble. We wanted a name that would have a sense of belonging so we went for “Terra Nostra” meaning Our Land, we thought the name was perfect as we perform music from our lands. Furthermore, the fact that the name is in Latin also relates to the root of our Language (Spanish), as all romance languages come from Latin. We discussed our mission and set repertoire and possible venue for our first concert, took our first group pictures, and then announced on social media.

In 2018 we welcomed a new member, violist Rainey Weber, in her words: “I joined Terra Nostra because I believe in the mission of highlighting the vast repertoire of Latin America and Iberia. I also have great respect for each of the members as artists and friends”.

Since our debut concert in November of 2016, the word about Terra Nostra has spread in the city, we have been able to grow as a group, and we perform more concerts every year. Our concerts are a mix of classical music and arrangements of traditional songs and folk tunes from Latin America. Our audience have nothing but good words about our work, many of our regular audience people show their appreciation for bringing our music to the city.

Terra Nostra has been recently appointed Ensemble-in residence at Houston Baptist University starting in the fall of 2019. We keep recording and making videos to promote our music not only in our concerts but in online platforms such as YouTube and other Social Media.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It has not been a smooth road. I will say that many times a feeling of doubt invades your mind, especially when we encounter many difficulties along the way. I guess for us as an ensemble there are specific challenges we face. As musicians, making a living most of time means working in the freelancing world, or just simply having a full-time job that takes most of your time, other aspects include the fact that some of us have a family. All these leaves little to no time to dedicate to personal projects that you are so passionate about. That said, syncing our schedules for rehearsals, finding time to dedicate to promotion, social media, update the website, producing a concert, etc. is always difficult. Besides all these logistic aspects, we have the issue of raising the necessary budget for your project to be self-sustainable.

However, we all have a passion for this project and although sometimes that means to invest and sacrifice some of your free time (and money), it is always very rewarding when we can touch people’s lives with our concerts and educational outreach events.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Terra Nostra Ensemble – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of and what sets you apart from others.
Terra Nostra is a quintet composed of professional musicians with a passion for chamber music. Terra Nostra performs and advocates for classical music from all eras that originates from Latin America and Iberia. The repertoire is vast and underperformed in the current classical culture.

We take pride in the fact that thanks to one of our members, Mauricio Oliveros, who also arrange music, we are able to perform our own arrangements of traditional songs or folk tunes from Latin America and Spain. These arrangements have been well received by audiences that attend our concerts and those who see our videos through social media and other platforms.

We stand apart from other chamber music groups in Houston because of our ability to perform music written for different instrumental configurations. Although we are a Piano Quintet, we are able to perform music for String Quartet, Piano Quintet, Piano Trio, String Trio, Duets, and even Solo works.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
We are excited with our appointment as Ensemble-in residence at Houston Baptist University starting in the fall of 2019.

We also look forward to an exciting season with three main concerts at HBU and the MATCH, we will feature amazing guest artists such as violinist Eddy Marcano, Tenor David Kirkwood, and Mezzo-soprano Cecilia Duarte.

This year we are also presenting our very own Terra Nostra Suite composed of 6 original arrangements of traditional songs from our countries.

It is an ambitious season, and for this we have a Crowdfunding Campaign going on until Oct. 15, we are hoping to raise funds to cover all the expenses, so if someone is interested in supporting our project they can visit our website: terranostraensemble.com/support.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Shanon Langman, Ashley O’Neail, Robert Quarantello, Vince Nguyen

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