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October 06, 2023

Music in My Life: Mitchell Ballester, Contrabass

Tell us about your family.

My father and sister have been integral to my success as a mu- sician. I could not have gotten where I am today without their ongoing encouragement and support. I’m the only musician in my family, but they are certainly able to sing along with the pieces I worked on over and over for years. My sister has been a great resource when it comes to teaching music lessons, as she is working towards a degree in education.

When did you start playing the bass?

In fifth grade, I made the switch from violin to the double bass. My first bass teacher introduced me to all styles, from classical to jazz and rock. After getting the basics down, I participated in some jazz groups alongside youth orchestras for a few years. Then after attending a high school summer music program—the Boston University Tanglewood Insti- tute—I narrowed my focus to my main musical passion, classical music.

What do you enjoy about being part of the ISO?

I love the community of people in the organization. Starting here in January, I felt welcomed by everyone, and I immediately felt like I was a part of the ISO rather than just the new recruit. The 23-24 season has so many great hits in it, and I think the Strauss concerts in January will be a personal favorite. Strauss’ composition has some of the most difficult, yet beautiful, bass parts in the orchestral repertoire.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not performing?

When I moved to Indianapolis in January, my friends introduced me to indoor rock climbing. I’ve found it to be a rewarding sport and I’ve gone all-in on it. I’ve found that the physical aspect of climbing has improved my performance, and the mental aspect of working on various techniques has changed my approach to practicing the bass. I also love going out to restaurants, going on walks, and playing games with friends.

Any advice for someone considering a career in the orchestra?

Everyone’s path is going to be slightly different, but there are certainly things that will help you grow and improve. The most crucial element is to practice! This includes ear training, studying, singing, and enjoying music. Going to a concert and mindfully listening is still a form of prac- tice. The second element is to find good mentors. I was very fortunate to have great teachers and colleagues during my studies. Apply to summer music programs, youth orchestras, competitions, colleges, etc. Even just sending someone an email asking for advice can develop a connection and provide you with knowledge. While it is easier said than done, my opinion is that a rejection letter is better than nothing at all. While some of these applications are daunting, you won’t know the results unless you try.

What do you want our audience members to know about the ISO?

A really valuable feature of the ISO is the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra. I started teaching for the program in February and have found it to be an amazing resource. The program is focused on cre- ating a supportive environment for students through music and by teaching valuable life skills and forming a community. Parents are also given the opportunity to engage by learning an instrument alongside their kids. The students I teach in this program have been a joy to work with. Indianapolis is lucky to have a strong youth orchestra and I would highly recommend it.