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What has San Antonio lost with the dissolution of its full-time symphony? ‘A cultural aquifer’

Frustration lingers a month after the 83-year-old organization's board announced bankruptcy, but those most directly affected are also hopeful.

David Lynch (KENS 5)

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Published: 3:51 PM CDT July 13, 2022
Updated: 9:12 AM CDT July 14, 2022

Even before San Antonio Symphony executives announced bankruptcy a month ago this week, Andrew Sutton held a front-row seat to how far the ripple effects might go once the curtain came down on the organization after 83 years. 

As orchestra director at Steele High School, Sutton said he’d talked with his students about the state of the symphony and why its performers embarked on a months-long strike. Some of those young musicians, having previously considered turning an extracurricular into a career, suddenly found themselves learning about the importance of having a plan B. 

“They're like, 'Maybe I should not do this full-time. Maybe I should just make this a hobby,’” Sutton said. “And we're talking some talented musicians that could potentially go on and do the full music conservatory track if they wanted to.” 

Some years ago, San Antonio native Samber Saenz found herself in that position, when an everyday field trip to the symphony unexpectedly sparked a new passion. 

A first-grader at the time, Saenz was wearing a new dress and shoes bought by her mom. 

“She said it was important to look nice for special events like the ballet and the symphony,” Saenz recalled. “I didn’t know what I was in for until I was there… I felt like there was nothing else happening except the music I was experiencing.”

The concert inspired her to join choir and other competitive musical activities. Later, she would take up the violin and even meet her future husband in her middle school orchestra. 

“So many moments in my life were shaped by that one singular field trip,” she says.

Credit: Courtesy: Samber Sanez

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