Winter Song Interview with Conductor Cosette Justo Valdés

Cosette Justo Valdés | Artistic Director Candidate

The VIS is excited to continue with their introduction of Artistic Director candidates. February’s Winter Song performance will feature their second candidate, conductor Cosette Justo Valdés.

Cosette was born and raised in Cuba and did not see her first Symphony performance until the age of eighteen. It was at that concert that she knew she wanted to be a conductor. “Conducting is more than making music,” explained Cosette “It is a great honour. For me it is about connecting with others – my colleagues and the audience. I decided to become a conductor because I love people and how they become their best when they are led with love. I have found my purpose in this career despite all the difficult obstacles I have had to overcome. Coming from a communist country that is truly a dictatorship, (although they try to make the world think otherwise) made me believe that conducting was going to be just a local experience, and that I was never going to have the opportunity for an international career. But here I am! I am incredibly grateful that I have made it to this beautiful country that has now become my home. Here I have found my people: some of my best friends and my most beloved colleagues,” said Cosette.

It is not surprising that one of Cosette’s favourite composer is Dmitri Shostakovich. “I have too many favourite composers! But one that has always spoken to my heart, and more lately, is Dmitri Shostakovich. He wrote exhilarating music that beyond having a perfect technique and creating new sounds and emotions, also transmitted a very strong message of protest and opposition to the government of Stalin. His bravery was beyond words.”

Cosette explained what it was like growing up in Cuba with her musical parents, who were both amateur musicians: “I grew up listening to music and making music with my parents, but they wanted a better future in music for me. It took a lot of work and sacrifices from my mother (who became a single mother before then) but she made it possible for me to study music at a boarding school that was a centre for arts. Those were very lonely years for me, as I missed her so much. I could only see her for two days every two weeks.”

“Since those early years, I have always been away from my family. I moved from my city Holguín, then later to study in La Habana, work in Santiago de Cuba, Germany, and now Canada. But my mother convinced me then that this was a necessary sacrifice for my future, for which I am now incredibly grateful. In Cuba, music is everywhere. Everyone is somehow a musician. And I am very thankful to be able to share my culture with the rest of the world,” she says with a smile.

Cosette goes on to tell us that she is enthusiastic about people and what we can do together as a community. “Their beautiful hearts and the meaningful things we can make happen when we work hard, with curiosity and inspiration but most importantly, together. I have been so inspired by the children, youth, and older audience members that come to talk with us after a concert and share about how this musical experience meant so much to them. Music and art save lives. We have a bigger responsibility, more than we sometimes suspect, especially in these times where our mental health has been so challenged. I see its importance more than ever.”

Last November, Cosette had her debut with the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra. The program, which was titled “Mujer,” was formed by works of great composers that happen to be women. With the support of the SSO’s CEO Mark Turner, she was able to commission a piece by her colleague Evelyn Ramón. “She wrote an immensely powerful piece that portraits the reality of Cuba today, which is very sad. The experience of bringing this piece to life together with the SSO incredible musicians was a transformative one. During rehearsals, but mostly the performance, we were in tears together. The opportunity to share with the musicians and later the audience, so much about my country is something I will always be grateful for.”

Cosette is so excited to be in Nanaimo for this performance and she is already immensely thankful for this opportunity. When asked what being the successful candidate would mean to her, she shared her thoughts: “I can only imagine how I will feel if I become the Artistic Director of the VIS. It would be such an honour, and the possibility to dream big for this fantastic group of people and of course for myself along with them would be a dream come true.”

Join us for Winter Song.
Saturday February 11, 2023  |  The Port Theatre, Nanaimo | Preconcert Talk: 6:30 p.m  |  Concert:  7:30 p.m.
Sunday February 12, 2023  |  The Sid Williams Theatre, Courtenay  |  Concert: 2:00 p.m.