Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Sonia Marie De Léon de Vega >

Being Hispanic - Does it have any influence on your business?
It means everything to my business. It influenced the founding ofthis very organization.

In the face of adversity, how do you decide to keep going?
Adversity has always been present and it has always been the fuel that feeds me. I do not let it discourage me ever. The more I was told that classical music is not something Latinos understand the more determined I was to give them access and exposure to this art form.

What is the biggest challenge your business has faced?
The biggest challenge has been the economic downturn, when that happened all businesses suffered and most especially non-profit organizations. People have less money to give to a cause.

If you could change one thing about your business, what would it be?
For the organization, I would take a few months just to concentrate on building infrastructure. As far as the symphony and classical music business I would change the notion that classical music in not for people of color. Presently, there are very few minorities in any symphony orchestra in the nation. I would like to see that change. I would like the orchestras to look more like the cities and communities they serve.

What was your childhood ambition?
As far as I could remember, it was always to be a classical musician. I started so young that I feel I have always been a musician.

Tell us about three entrepreneurs that you admire?
I greatly admire Michael Kaiser the president of the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. He is very passionate about helping other arts organizations and arts organizations of color. He started a Capacity Building program that we have participated in for the last 5 years and I am fortunate to have him as my mentor.

This morning I discovered a produce store in a neighboring community that is mostly Latino. They sell organic produce and locally grown produce as well as organic meats. The owner decided to put his business in the community where he grew up to give back to the community. I greatly admire any entrepreneur who has a desire to give back to their community.

For business meetings: breakfast, lunch, or dinner?
They are all good! However, I do prefer lunch and dinner. Dinner is the best for a nice long meeting.

What sacrifices on your personal life did you have to make in order to become a business success?
I had to sacrifice a lot and still do everyday to keep this organization going and growing. Many days I feel as if there are not enough hours in a day to work. Sometimes I have to remind myself to have a personal life! It is a struggle, but absolutely necessary.

What is your favorite quote?
A Chinese proverb: ‘Those who say it cannot be done, should not interrupt those doing it.”

Is it difficult to be unconventional?
It is a little difficult, but a lot of fun!

Biggest mistake made?
Maybe it is a good thing that I cannot think of one. One day though I may look back and say I should have taken more vacations.

Do you consider yourself an innovator? Why?
Yes, I am an innovator. I am one of the first women to be a conductor. I was studying to be a conductor when no other woman was conducting a symphony. At the time I started there were twowomenconducting opera. I was told at a conducting workshop where I was the only woman amongst 40 men to give up conducting because “a woman would never be accepted conducting a symphony orchestra in our lifetime”. I have now proven that wrong. Everything is possible.

About the Company:

Sonia Marie De Léon de Vega is the founder, music director and conductor of the Santa Cecilia Orchestra. Maestra De Léon de Vega is also celebrated in education circles for creating the Discovering Music Program, which has been changing the lives of thousands of Latino youth through the power of music education for over 18 years. Maestra De Léon de Vega has expressed her deep commitment to the Latino community, as well as advocating for music education and encouraging young musicians to pursue their talents.

Founded in 1992 Santa Cecilia Orchestra (SCO), has made a commitment to share the beauty and inspiration of classical music with Southern California audiences, giving special focus to Latino communities. In fact, SCO is the only orchestra in the nation with a specific mission to take classical music to the Latino community. The Santa Cecilia Orchestra has a long history of promoting the talent of Mexico and other Latino composers. On May 22, 2011, SCO will play México Sinfónico! For more information about Sonia, SCO and the concerts, contact Richie Matthews of DIÁLOGO at

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