Young Strings Alumni Reflections

Young String Alumni, Catalina Aguirre Simmonds

“For many years, I have loved music. When I was growing up living and traveling between Dallas and Mexico, there was never a time that music was not playing. Mexican music to be exact, particularly my grandfather’s accordion music which he proudly played for us and had recorded in his many years as a working musician. When I was asked to learn violin by the music teacher at my school (Ms. Darcie Sague, who was incredible) it made sense that I accept and begin my own musical journey. When I played my first recital and realized that performing gave me a special feeling, I decided to go all in and commit to it %100. I transferred to Dealey where Mrs. Williams was the director, another Dallas educator legend, and I joined the orchestra where I would be able to play along other serious musicians. This raised my level of playing to where I was playing in anything and everything that orchestra had to offer, from paying

$1 for private lessons (all my parents could afford) to All City, All Region, and Solo and Ensemble, New Conservatory of Dallas, and GDYO.At this point my parents knew I was serious and that’s when I auditioned for Young Strings and was accepted my 8th grade year. I auditioned under the recommendation of Ms. Sague who was very well connected to the Dallas music education world, and I am so glad I did. Not only was my first teacher very kind and inspiring, I felt proud to be a part of an organization that highlighted my culture and heritage, and celebrated the fact that I was Hispanic. This opportunity opened up many doors for me in my musical career including getting to attend music camps all over the country, and presenting me with playing opportunities for artists in the classical music industry. I remember Young Strings hosting workshops and performances by musicians who were playing with the DSO that weekend, and holding masterclasses for us. As great as all of those opportunities were, the biggest help that YS did for me was providing me with a high quality instrument to play on. I am so grateful that I was always able to play on quality instruments, and was so happy to learn that they would be willing to lend me an instrument when I went to study music in college. That alone was priceless because as we all know, the quality of an instrument does affect the player, and without YS my parents would not have been able to afford to buy me that kind of instrument.

I will always be grateful to YS for supporting me and helping me get through the most challenging time in my life, surviving poverty in a household with 8 people, and yet the happiest time of my life because of those opportunities. It is the main reason I teach now, as I want to inspire my students to dream big and not let socio-economic, cultural, or societal boundaries stop them from fulfilling their dreams. I was a YS violin teacher for several years before moving to Oklahoma with my family. The purpose of Young Strings was to diversify orchestras all over the world, well I am proud to say I have performed with the Las Colinas Symphony, the Tulsa Ballet, Tulsa Symphony Orchestra, Symphony of Northwest Arkansas, and I am also playing in a Candlelight Concert Series that showcases a string quartet that performs music with different themes. Many times over my experiences with YS have prepared me for a life in classical music, I am so proud to call YS and the DSO my symphony home, and will always shout it from the rooftops!”