A Southside student achieved his dream at a reputable group camp

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Music has always seemed obvious to Christian Gonzales. The rising eldest at Southside High School grew up in a musical family, taking after his older brothers by joining the band in fifth grade and learning other instruments in his spare time since then.

Yet he never imagined his skills would take him far from the Southside and even outside of San Antonio, to one of the nation’s most esteemed music camps.

Gonzales is currently studying at Interlochen Arts Camp, a nearly 100-year-old summer camp program for promising students in a variety of arts fields. The local teenager, who excels on the tuba, impressed his managers at Southside and the San Antonio Youth Orchestras (YOSA), who prepared him for his time in Interlochen, Michigan.

Being part of the prestigious camp, Gonzales is able to hone his snorkeling skills.

“Some of the best musicians in the world and the nation have all come together in northern Michigan to create some of the best music I’ve ever played and heard,” he says.

For Gonzales, the journey to an experience like Interlochen has been a long one; and it’s a trip he’s grateful for. He admits he started taking music seriously in college, when his band director encouraged students to try out the UIL regional band, where students audition for a place in the regional band. After not being part of the group in seventh grade, Gonzales trained harder and achieved his goal of earning his chair in eighth grade.

Members of the Southside Cardinals Band continue to play as they enter an area where children bombard the parade with confetti during the Fiesta Flambeau Parade.

Tom Reel, staff member / staff photographer

“I thought to myself, ‘If I practiced even harder in high school, I could probably do Region Band over and over again and I could get 20 times better,'” Gonzales recalled.

So he did just that. Although the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted his tryout plans for Region Band, the soon-to-be senior achieved his goal every year the auditions took place. He’s even a Solo All-Stater, which means he received the highest scores possible among Texas musicians on a Grade 1 (meaning it’s extremely difficult) piece he performed by himself- even and from memory.

Although he was talented on his own, Gonzales says playing in YOSA, made up of the most talented young musicians in town, amplified his passion for music. Playing with the experienced local ensemble, and with the encouragement of the directors of YOSA, he realized how far his musicality could lead him.


Winning his place in Interlochen was a feat in itself. As part of his application for the prestigious camp, Gonzales had to submit a recording of himself showing off his tuba abilities. Once there, the teenager had to audition again to determine his placement in the three groups of the camp.

He went to the best band in Interlochen, which gives concerts every Saturday at 6 p.m.

“We play college-level repertoire,” he admits. “I didn’t even think I could play any part of this, but coming here has allowed me to unleash my potential.”

Rising Southside senior Christian Gonzales makes moves with his tubing skills.

Rising Southside senior Christian Gonzales makes moves with his tubing skills.

KEVIN GEIL/SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS

During his time at the six-week camp, which includes a mix of lessons and rehearsals each week, the 17-year-old, who plans to study music at university and pursue a career in music, takes advantage of the diversity and opportunities that Interlochen has given him.

“We even have someone from Taiwan in our cabin,” he says. “Having the connections here and the experience of playing college, an even bigger set, can take me even further.”

No matter what happens after Interlochen, Gonzales’ musical journey will no doubt continue with just as much fire and momentum.

“In college, I couldn’t even dream of coming here,” he says. “Now that I’m here, it just tells me that if you’re passionate and work hard enough, you can definitely get it.”

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