We had the good fortune of connecting with Paulo Gomes and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Paulo, do you have a favorite quote or affirmation? What does it mean to you / what do you like about it?
Yes, I do have a favorite quote by Edward Everett Hale:
“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”
In my humble opinion it is simple but profound. I was introduced to the quote by my friend and colleague, Dr. Wallace Long, in San Antonio during the Texas Two-Year College Choral Directors Association (TTCCDA). What I really like about this quote is the affirmation that we are not a “superman,” however, we still have the power to do something if we NOT refuse to do so. Whatever we set out to achieve will touch, change or bless someone’s life and also the world.
For instance, it has been a challenging time for the performing arts. In 2019, I accepted the Artistic Director and Conductor position with the Houston Masterworks Chorus (HMC). In 2020, two weeks before our inaugural concert celebrating Beethoven’s 250th birthday, the pandemic struck and everything was put on hold. Knowing that I could not do everything, including eradicating this pandemic, I refused not do to something that I could do. We did not give up. With the support of the Houston Masterworks singers, Board of Directors and community members, we did something. Through this past year we have provided hope to our community through music during a dark, dark time. We created virtual choirs, including a fantastic concert spearheaded by HMC this past December called “United in Song – A Convergence of Houston Choirs.”
“United in Song” brought together five Houston community choirs with more than 200 singers: three classically-inspired (Houston Masterworks Chorus, Houston Choral Society, Houston Cecilia Chamber Choir), one show choir (Houston Show Choir), and one barbershop a cappella group (Space City Sound). Again, a dark moment transformed into light by fantastic colleagues and new partnerships.
Because “I cannot do everything, but still I can do something” we pressed on and this past April, HMC reimagined the traditional Handel’s Messiah with a live fusion of music and dance, accompanied by organ and in partnership with the Ad Deum Dance Company of Houston. In May, HMC in partnership with The Terra Nostra Ensemble, and Kinder HSPVA Madrigal Singers as special guests, will explore the diverse traditions of Latin American and Iberian music in a free live streamed concert.
Alright, so let’s jump right in! The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there a person, group, organization, book, etc. that you want to dedicate your shoutout to? Who else deserves a little credit and recognition in your story?
My first shoutout is to God for showing me the path and blessing me all the way. My second shoutout goes to HMC. Over its history, HMC has weathered historical highs and lows such as oil booms and busts, natural disasters, 9/11, local financial crises and the recent global pandemic. Each event gave HMC the opportunity to create and collaborate with skilled community singers of all ages, backgrounds, and musical experiences. I am grateful and proud to be part of this organization as the Artistic Director and Conductor. With the support of the HMC Board of Directors and the singer’s resilience and desire, we have kept music alive. Creatively, I have been able to share my musical expertise and expand the artistic vision of the chorus.
Another shoutout goes to Houston Camerata, a Texas-based ensemble, which I founded in 2012. A non-profit arts organization dedicated to bringing together those who love to sing with those who love to hear beautiful music, joyously embracing exceptional and interesting music through our performances of the choral repertoire of varied cultures and regions. Houston Camerata allowed me to get my feet wet in Houston as a professional conductor. They will always be in my heart.
Equally important, I could not have been where I am today, without my grandmother Maria Luiza Gomes. She was a beacon in my life and taught me how to have faith, character and to respect others. She often said, “If it is simple, easy, and cheap, it is not worthy”. While my journey has not always been smooth, a lifetime of personal and professional challenges and opportunities has allowed me to grow and it has been worthy. I am extremely grateful for my grandmother. I’m also extremely grateful to my American family, the Mango family, for supporting my career and standing up next to me during my graduate studies at the University of Houston. The Mango family was also by my side in 2013, when I was fighting for my life in the hospital, overwhelmed by chemotherapy and radiation attacking the golf-ball-size tumor next to my brain.
In the music realm, I will give a shoutout to my great mentor Maestro Roberto Duarte who taught me the power of touching people’s lives through conducting. As a young adult struggling to keep a job while continuing my education, he once told me, “There is a place for every star in the sky and they all still shine”. Also, my American mentors: Dr. Ann Howard Johnson (Boston University) and Dr. Charles Hausmann (University of Houston), for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to further my education in the United States.
Lastly, I am grateful to Blinn College District, for embracing my work and allowing me to be part of the Texas Higher Education music family. This past year has been an extremely challenging time for all music directors; however, Blinn College District has allowed us to fight against the odds of not rehearsing or singing at all. As educators, daily we see how music comforts during challenging times and changes people’s lives. It is extremely fulfilling when a student of mine that has struggled to keep studying music, writes a beautiful card: “You create an amazing framework for the creation of the lifelong passion for music. I have my deep love for music and the arts because of you. Thank you so much for the extra hours and for always being ready to listen, and for being someone that I will always look up to. I will cherish all memories forever.” Again, humbly, I am a tiny insignificant star, that strives to contribute to the musical constellation’s light: “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”
Please tell us more about your work. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
I began as a piano student, followed by a choral-conducting master class where I knew I’d found my passion. I fashioned my first baton from a cork and wooden skewer. My “magic wand”. At 18, I became the choir director’s assistant and I have never stopped conducting.
My current role since 2015 is the Director of Choral Music at Blinn College District in Brenham, Texas, where I am responsible for recruiting, advising, and organizing the Choral and Vocal department. In the spring of 2019, the Blinn Chamber Choir and I traveled to Granada, Montefrio and Seville, Spain. We were the first performing group to sing abroad in the history of the Blinn College Music Program. The choir received ovations after each performance.
In 2019, I accepted the role of Artistic Director and Conductor for the Houston Masterworks Chorus (HMC). HMC is a 35-year-old non-profit organization providing rewarding performances throughout the Houston area, both individually and in partnership with other cultural/non-profit organizations. HMC has given me the opportunity to share my passion for music and to fulfill their performing art’s mission to inspire, uplift and educate. As the pandemic lifts, we will continue to create memorable experiences for audiences within Houston and beyond. As we have all learned during the pandemic, music changes us and in turn we can change the world for the better.
In 2012, I founded Houston Camerata in order to fulfill my University of Houston degree requirement. The group performed Missa Afro-Brasileira from Brazilian composer Carlos Alberto Pinto Fonseca. After this recital the singers wanted to perform again, so we prepared and presented Giacomo Puccini’s “Messa di Gloria”.
My career in America began as a music teacher at North High School in Worcester, MA. North High School’s students had a high poverty rate and many other challenges. Principal, Elizabeth Drake, told me that the students were not interested in a choir program. She said, “I need somebody to build the program. Are you ready for this?” I said a firm yes, even though I had no idea how high schools function in the United States. Regardless, I was pretty happy with the position while also a little scared.
During my first year at North High School, the choir won first prize at a statewide choral contest and their individual grades improved overall. As more students joined us over the next four years, the ensemble became a showpiece for the school and for the district. In 2003, I had the honor to be awarded Teacher of the Year by faculty peers at Worcester Public Schools. I have also presented for the 2015 America Choral Directors Association (ACDA) National Conference in Salt Lake City, lectured for Massachusetts ACDA on Brazilian choral music and served as choir director/organist in the Northeast. While in Massachusetts, I also served as Visiting Professor and Director of Choral Activities at Clark University and Worcester State University.
I was born in Brazil, and I have conducted in my country as well as in Italy, Spain and the United States. In 1992, I received a second prize on the “Premio Vicenzo Valenti” conducting the orchestra and choir Josquino Salépico in Molffetta City, Italy. That was really an artistic highlight in my life.
As a music educator, my goal is to enhance a student’s musicianship by expanding their aesthetic sensibilities whether musically or intellectually in a nurturing and unconditional environment, preparing them for a lifetime of professional careers, musical or non-musical.
In my professional life, I believe that I am known for my passion for music, along with a desire to work with diverse groups bringing musical scores to life. In Houston, I have had the honor to work with great musicians and artists in general. Creatively, I fearlessly share my musical ideas while uniting accomplished musicians and other artists.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc. In your view what are some of the most fun, interesting, exciting people, places or things to check out?
A few places I like to eat: Perbacco, McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood & Steaks, Maggiano’s, Bistecca, Oporto, Grand Luxe Cafe, Ruth’s Chris, Treebeards, Pappasitos Cantina, Sweet Paris and Pappadeaux. Well, you are probably thinking where is the Brazilian one… that would be at my house LOL. For coffee/drinks I would say Fellini Gelato & Café, Minute Coffee, La Madeleine, La Tartine de Houston, and Delices De Maurice in Katy. Culturally, Houston is unbelievably rich. Without question visiting the Museum of Fine Arts, Jones Hall, the Wortham Center, and the Houston Ballet are at the top of my list. For fun, checking out the Post Oak area, walking in Hermann Park and around Cinco Ranch Lake in Katy.
Blinn College District Marketing and Shannon Langman