On Sunday, July 6, 2014, members of the San Diego Symphony performed an unprecedented event at Friendship Park, in the very southwest corner of the United States, when they gave a concert while collaborating across the U.S.-Mexico border with musicians of Orquesta de Baja California (OBC). This location is one of few along the border where individuals can converse with foreign nationals while remaining on their respective sides of the border. The holes in the 20-foot tall metal border fence allowed the split ensemble to communicate during the performance, attended by hundreds of people in both countries. Although half the ensemble was visually obscured, the music remained harmonious and synchronized. San Diego Symphony musicians Igor Pandurski, A.J. Nilles, Marcia Bookstein, and Jory Herman were joined on the U.S. side of the border by the former concertmaster of Orquesta de Baja California, Jorge Soto, with OBC musicians Alejandro Garcia, Apolo Pachinski, Augusto Miron, and Oscar Miramontes Yllan on the Mexico side.
This performance came at a time of much turmoil in the national media about immigration reform. As a result, national news organizations ABC, NBC, and CBS covered the event in addition to our local media. However, the performance was not directed at the political debate. It was in promotion of a San Diego Symphony project called “Your Song, Your Story,” which was presented in a series of July concerts. Those performances, funded by a James Irvine Foundation grant [as reported in the November 2012 issue of Senza Sordino], brought together the music of composer Bill Conti, 18 community performing groups, the entire San Diego Symphony, and a dozen user-submitted videos (from over 300 submissions, which can be viewed online at YourSongYourStory.org) throughout the entirety of the 30-minute multimedia work. In total, the concerts reached a diverse audience of 6,100, with 59% of the audience being non-Caucasian, and 33% having never previously attended a San Diego Symphony concert.