A Note from Alejandro Hernandez-Valdez

My parents came, literally, from dust. Born in two separate small towns in the state of Jalisco, Mexico, soon after the end of the Cristero War (1926-1929) and on the heals of the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920), they grew up in circumstances that are experienced by the poorest among the poor. As a young child, my mom lived on the streets for a few years under the protection of her slightly older brother. As the child of an alcoholic father, my dad learned every possible craft, from carpentry, to construction, to music, out of necessity. Neither one of them was able to complete elementary school (I remember my dad jokingly and lovingly teasing my mom for not finishing 4th grade…he never finished 5th grade). 

Alejandro’s father

Alejandro’s father

Music became a part of my life from early childhood since my dad, through absolute grit and raw talent, became principal double bass player of the Guadalajara Symphony (now Jalisco Philharmonic). I always loved music and was deeply moved by it but it wasn’t until my dad became seriously ill that I thought about music as a potential profession. I learned to play piano at the age of 12 when I switched careers from being a bagboy at a large grocery store to playing for church services and for choirs around the city. Soon enough I was making enough money to help my family, which became a true necessity as my dad’s health progressively deteriorated. When I was 15, my dad passed away and thus I was forced to seriously think about my future before reaching full maturity. With a stay home mom and much debt from my dad’s long illness, I decided to give up music to pursue a more financially dependable profession.

It was around this time that I decided to offer one last piano recital to give finality to my musical aspirations. Many things got in the way but, a couple years later, the evening of the recital finally came. By happenstance, on that exact night, the Snows, an American/British couple, were on an evening stroll and noticed a small crowd gathering outside a small concert hall near their downtown hotel. To my great fortune, they decided to check out the scene and step into the hall to listen to my recital; this seemingly unimportant decision on their part would alter the course of my life in tremendous ways.

After the recital ended, the Snows came to greet me. Through my brother, who was translating, I understood that they thought I had talent and that they wished to help me pursue my goal to become a professional musician. Dr. Harlan Snow had, at some point in the past, been the Dean of the Shenandoah Conservatory of Music in Virginia and, based on my performance that evening, he thought I stood a good chance to be admitted as a student there. Encouraged by the Snows, I applied to Shenandoah’s piano performance program using the tapes from my farewell recital as my audition. A few weeks later, I was offered a full tuition, room, and board scholarship to attend Shenandoah. After learning that I couldn’t afford to buy a plane ticket, the Snows found a sponsor to cover my initial expenses.

My mind has traveled back to that moment in my life numerous times. Was it that I was simply in the right place at the right time? What drove two then-complete strangers to help this skinny brown kid in a foreign land pursue his dreams? Why do some people get these chances and some don’t regardless of their potential or talent? Whatever the answer may be, this experience gave me an unshakable faith in the ability of human kindness and music to transform lives. The person that I have become has been shaped by endless encounters with kind and generous people and, in turn, I hope to have impacted some people positively through my personal journey. It is, I believe, this interconnectedness that gives most meaning to our lives.


The New Orchestra of Washington has grown out of this kindness. The trust and love of those who have believed in the vision and mission of the orchestra is what makes us strong. Through the years, it has been humbling and empowering for Grace and me to see this increasing support. As I approach the 25th anniversary of my arrival in America, I am eager to continue showing my gratitude for my good fortune by sharing my knowledge and passion for music with others.

NOW’s Eighth Season offers great experiences aimed to take you on an extraordinary journey with each and every program. We are excited to be collaborating with AMP by Strathmore in North Bethesda and the Blackrock Center for the Arts in Germantown. We are also looking forward to returning to two of our favorite venues: the Mexican Cultural Institute and Live! at 10th & G in DC. In addition, we are thrilled for our continuing partnership with the Choral Arts Society of Washington Chamber Singers. None of this would be possible without your generous support. Your help has a tremendous impact and allows us to, in turn, impact other people’s lives through our performances and outreach activities.

Talking about generosity, this season we are grateful for an anonymous donor who put forward $5,000 to get Season Eight started with renewed impetus. Through this generous seed money we are launching a #MakeaDifferenceNOW campaign throughout the month of September to reach a goal of $20,000. This campaign will give us much needed resources to secure a strong start to an exciting and ambitious season. As you may have guessed, this is truly the main incentive for this letter and for my sharing my story at this time. I am grateful for all that members of our beloved and ever-expanding community do to move us forward and to inspire us to continue searching. Each and every one of you plays an important role in the life of the New Orchestra of Washington and in my life. It is my greatest hope that through our music we are able to repay you for your abundant generosity for many years to come.

With continuing gratitude,

Alejandro Hernandez-Valdez

Prefer to send a check? Download a pledge form here. Mail the form along with your check to:

New Orchestra of Washington
15800 Crabbs Branch Way
Suite 300
Rockville, MD 20855

Other Ways to Donate


House a NOW Musician

House one of NOW's out-of-town musicians! We occasionally have housing needs during our various productions. If you would like to host a musician, please contact Robert Schroyer for more information.



Host a House Party

Interested in having NOW musicians perform in your home? Sponsor and host a NOW House Party! Wine, food, and great music. What could be better? Please contact Grace Cho for more information.



Become a Volunteer

We always need volunteers! They are an integral part of our box office team, and we would love to have you join us for concerts, recitals, and special events. Please contact Laurel Bahar for more information.


The New Orchestra of Washington is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt not-for-profit organization (EIN 46-0755411). Donations are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law. Questions? Contact Grace Cho at (240)745-6587 or Grace@NewOrchestraOfWashington.org.