UTRGV student musician places first in competition at Texas Music Festival

BY Amanda A. Taylor

Andres Vela, a UTRGV Music Performance major, won first prize in the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Young Artist Competition in Houston recently at the Texas Music Festival.

He is the first UTRGV student to win this prestigious competition, as well as the first double bassist to win since the inception of the festival 28 years ago.

As part of his win, which included a cash prize and a medal, Vela has been invited to perform as a soloist with the Akademisches Orchester under Maestro Carlos Spierer at the Gewandhaus concert hall in October in Leipzig, Germany.

Vela said he could not believe it when his name was announced because he wasn’t happy with his performance, and the judges had said they had never had such a close race between first and second places.

“When they said my name, I was in shock,” Vela said. “I didn’t get to hear the other musicians perform since I was backstage most of the time. I was just judging my own performance and didn’t think I did well. After they called my name, about 100 people in the lobby were congratulating me. I had never had that feeling before; it was great.”

In order to be accepted into the Texas Music Festival as a fellow, Vela had to apply for a fellowship. The fellowship was open to about 80 musicians, which included concerts and weekly orchestra programs.

The fellows were invited to apply to the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Young Artist Competition, which would allow the winner to perform with the Texas Music Festival orchestra. Vela was one of 30 applicants chosen to participate in the competition, ultimately winning and receiving the invitation to perform in Germany.

George Amorim, associate professor of double bass in the UTRGV School of Music, said he has had Vela as a student since high school. He said he is a great person and an extremely talented musician.

“The rules of the competition state that the winning soloist may be invited to perform with the orchestra, but it’s not very often they are featured as a soloist,” Amorim said.

Vela has garnered many accolades throughout his student music career. He is a part of the National Youth Orchestra of the USA and has performed at Carnegie Hall, as well at the Festival Institute at Round Top, the Classical Music Institute in San Antonio, and the Aruba Symphony Festival. In 2015, he received Honorable Mention in the American String Teachers Association Solo Competition, and won the UTRGV Concerto Competition.

Currently a senior at UTRGV, Vela said he plans to graduate and continue his music career. He plans to get a master’s degree in music, with the ultimate goal of performing with a major symphony orchestra.

“I really enjoy meeting other musicians from other cultures who speak different languages, yet we express ourselves together through the music,” he said. “That language, in itself, is beautiful.”