Conductor Enrico Lopez-Yañez has several reasons to love his involvement with the Omaha Symphony’s Hispanic Heritage Month concert on Thursday.
The first, of course, is his Mexican ancestry.
Then there’s his background with the symphony: For a few years right out of school, he was the assistant conductor of the Omaha orchestra.
“It will always feel like home for that reason,” he said.
And — maybe the most important reason — his father, noted Mexican opera singer Jorge Lopez-Yañez, will be a guest artist for the free Omaha concert at 7:30 p.m. on the Omaha South High School stage.
Enrico Lopez-Yañez left Nebraska last year to become assistant conductor of the Nashville Symphony. He came to Omaha early this week to start rehearsals for Thursday. He was looking forward to connecting with his dad.
“We only see each other a couple times a year, usually around the big holidays,” he said. “So this is kind of a reunion.”
The concert has been in the works for about three years. During his tenure in Omaha, Lopez-Yañez collaborated with people and organizations in South Omaha and beyond to make it happen.
“Omaha has such a rich and vibrant Hispanic community, especially with Omaha South,” he said. “I thought it would be a great idea for the symphony to try and connect with that part of town.”
He had several goals for the event.
For one thing, he wanted the repertoire to demonstrate the flexibility and collaboration that make the orchestra special. One week, it might partner with a famous rock star. The next, it might perform a classical program. And after that, it might be onstage with a mariachi group like Omaha’s Luna Y Sol, which will play with the symphony on Thursday.
He also wanted people to understand the breadth and depth of Hispanic symphonic music, he said.
The program will include José Pablo Moncayo’s “Huapuango,” a piece that many in the audience will find familiar.
“It’s one of the most recognizable Mexican compositions, probably second only to the national anthem of Mexico,” Lopez-Yañez said.
Works by Spanish composer Manuel de Falla, Carlos Chávez and Arturo Márquez also will be featured.
And he wanted to share his love for that music with an underserved community “where people may not feel like the orchestra is something that always speaks to them,” he said. He sees the concert as an opportunity to show people with Hispanic heritage that symphonic music is a vibrant part of their culture.
Symphony public relations manager Stephanie Ludwig said the concert will serve a demographic that’s not often represented at the Holland Center. Patrons from southeast Omaha made up only 6.5 percent of the symphony’s audience last year, she said.
To increase awareness for Thursday’s concert, the symphony sought neighborhood participation from neighborhood entities such as schools, El Museo Latino, the South Omaha Business Association and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, among others.
“These are groups that we haven’t reached before,” she said.
Grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska financed the event.
Lopez-Yañez said he fell in love with classical music at an early age. His mother also was a musician (she played the piano) and the entire family would travel with his father for performances around the world.
“I feel fortunate that I grew up sitting in rehearsals at all those great opera houses with fabulous orchestras and world-class singers,” he said. “It was the soundtrack of my childhood.”
Now Lopez-Yañez is performing alongside his father. They’ve only been on the same stage a handful of times. Each time, he said, dad made it interesting.
“He doesn’t make it easy for me,” Lopez-Yañez said. “He’s a little funny when he works with me. He doesn’t ever sing the same thing the same way twice. He keeps me on my toes and makes sure I’m flexible.”