CSO Fellows share how the program helps them grow as musicians

2023/24 CSO Fellows Gabriela Lara, Jesús Linárez and Olivia Reyes

Todd Rosenberg Photography

Three string players — violinists Gabriela Lara and Jesús Linárez and bassist Olivia Reyes — currently participate in the CSO Fellowship program. As CSO Fellows, these musicians rehearse and perform with the CSO at least 20 weeks per season, work with top conductors, and receive training and mentorship from CSO musicians. The program aims to help early career musicians become better equipped to win auditions with top U.S. orchestras, including the CSO.

Gabriela Lara, the Michael and Kathleen Elliott Fellow, was the first musician selected for the CSO Fellowship and is finishing her second season in the program. After that, she will begin a new job with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. Jesús Linárez and Olivia Reyes are first-year fellows and will continue in these roles in the 2024/25 Season. Read about their impressions of the program in the Q&A below.

Do you have a favorite memory from your experiences as a CSO Fellow this season?

Gabriela: My favorite memory from my second year as a fellow would definitely be the European Tour. It’s such an incredible experience to travel across all of these countries and have the opportunity to be in so many amazing concert halls with the orchestra playing the highest level of music.

Jesús: It’s difficult to put one specific memory above the others, but maybe my favorite memory of the season so far was the week of Strauss’ Death and Transfiguration and Lutosławski’s Concerto for Orchestra with Maestro Jakub Hrůša. These were two pieces that I’d never played or even heard before. I felt the concerts that week had a special energy.

Olivia: One of my favorite memories is being at the rehearsal where Klaus Mäkelä was announced the next music director. Playing Shostakovich 10 with him was one of the most energetic and exhilarating weeks I’ve played with the Chicago Symphony.

Could you share something you’ve learned or a way you’ve grown this season through the CSO Fellowship?

Gabriela: I’m always impressed by each musician and person that is part of the CSO and their responsibility for not only the job but also for the music, their peers and what it means to be part of this organization. They lead by example.

Jesús: Something that has really stuck out is that I think I have improved my sound. Being able to sit next to great violinists with so many different kinds of sounds has helped me a lot in improving and finding my own kind of sound.

Olivia: I would say the biggest skill I’ve learned this year is how to be a good section member. In school, it’s all about practicing alone and learning excerpts, but once you are in an orchestra, it’s not about you anymore. You have to constantly think about what is happening around you and how to adjust every second. It was very eye opening for me during my first week with the CSO, but it also excited me to know that this would be a new goal for me to work on.

What are your hopes for your second year as a CSO Fellow?

Jesús: My hope for my second year as a CSO Fellow is to play as much as I can with the orchestra, learn more from the musicians and hopefully get a position in one of the top orchestras.

Olivia: Something I really enjoyed this year was having the opportunity to learn so much and to push my abilities to a higher level. All I have ever wanted was to play with an orchestra that pushes and challenges me to be better and better each week. I am really looking forward to continuing to grow as a musician and an individual next year.

How did the CSO Fellowship help to prepare you for your new job in the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra?

Gabriela: Just by being in this environment continuously, it automatically makes you become a better musician in general. Nonetheless, the lessons that I get to take with musicians of the orchestra throughout the year as part of the CSO Fellowship program have helped me immensely to prepare for orchestra auditions.