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“At least you get to see this side of me,” quipped conductor Giancarlo Guerrero, as he sat for a lively Q&A session with members of the CSO Latino Alliance. Guerrero, music director of the Nashville Symphony, was one of several special guests appearing at the pre-concert reception May 23 in Symphony Center’s Grainger Ballroom.

The audience of course usually only views the conductor from behind, and this talk gave Guerrero the opportunity to display his flip side, so to speak. Guerrero was making his CSO debut that night, as were guitarist Pablo Sáinz Villegas and bandoneón virtuoso Daniel Binelli, in a program of Spanish and Latin American favorites. A native of Nicaragua and longtime resident of Costa Rica, Guerrero recalled how the Chicago Symphony Orchestra played a crucial role in his artistic development. He came from a family without a classical-music background  — “my father liked mariachi and my mother loved Julio Iglesias.” But broadcasts of the CSO, transmitted over the WFMT Network, triggered his interest in classical music. “I listened to the CSO every week; I never missed a program,” he said.

Later, when he attended Northwestern University, Guerrero attended CSO concerts on a regular basis. “This week in rehearsals I told the CSO musicians what an impact the orchestra had on me,” he said. “It was absolutely inspiring, but also very scary, because of the level of their playing was so intimidating.” Though music started out as a hobby for Guerrero, it grew to become a passion. “I’m so delighted that classical music became so central to my life,” he said. “I’m so grateful I get to make a living out of what began as a childhood hobby.”

Also appearing at the reception were members of Chicago’s Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater, and Sáinz Villegas and Binelli, who gave background details about their works on the program, respectively, Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez and Piazzolla’s Sinfonía Buenos Aires. Sáinz Villegas called Rodrigo’s concerto “beautiful, powerful and profound. It represents the essence of Spanish music, with its passion, joy and yet depths of despair.”

The CSO program with Guerrero, Sáinz Villegas and Binelli repeats May 25 at 8 p.m. and May 26 at 3 p.m. For information and tickets, click here.