Breaking Tradition: SoNA series showcases international music

Breaking Tradition: SoNA series showcases international music

“Music is a very personal and individual experience,” says bassoonist Lia Uribe, associate professor of music at the University of Arkansas. “And at the same time we use it to connect through our common experiences, those as human beings.”

Uribe grew up in Colombia, in “a very musical family in which everyday life had its own soundtrack. Music — singing and dancing — was ever present in all life celebrations during my formative years, [and] singing together to a guitar was a common time-passing activity when I was a teenager.”

Things changed for Uribe, however, when she discovered classical music and the bassoon when she was 13. She says she fell in love with the instrument’s unique voice and “being a classical musician and a bassoonist became a new identity that made me different than other kids my age.” It was also a teenage act of rebellion.

“I experienced a lot of opposition from my parents when I communicated to them that I had dropped my intentions of being an engineer to become a professional bassoonist,” she remembers. “I worked really hard to pursue my dreams, and eventually, to get their approval.”

The bassoon brought Uribe to Fayetteville in 1999 to work on her first graduate degree, a master’s in music at the University of Arkansas.

“I left Arkansas and lived in Indiana for a while, then in Missouri, got a doctorate at the University of Kansas, and came back in 2013 when a tenure track position opened at the University of Arkansas,” she explains. “I have been playing with SoNA as principal bassoonist since 2011.”

Usually that means playing traditional classical music. But SoNA Beyond, a new series debuting Oct. 2 at the Fayetteville Public Library, has given Uribe a rare opportunity to take “a strong step toward rebalancing the world of ‘classical’ music locally.”

The brainchild of Paul Haas, SoNA music director, and Riley Nicholson, SoNA executive director, the series was born in the success of the orchestra’s enhanced and virtual programming during the pandemic of 2020. The goal, Nicholson says, is to showcase the vast spectrum of possibilities for classical music and to reach audiences and the community at large in new and innovative ways.

“Symphonic concerts on our mainstage will always be at the heart of what we do,” assures Nicholson. “However, there are so many possibilities beyond that, and we want to push the boundaries of what classical music can do. We want to demonstrate that classical music can be presented in unexpected ways, can feature an enormous range of voices, and can reach audiences that might be left out of typical symphonic concerts.”

In the series opener, Uribe and colleagues Fernando Valencia, Raul Munguia, Cristian Martinez, all SoNA Hispanic musicians, have curated content that highlights music for clarinet, bassoon, piano, string quartet and percussion, written by composers from Puerto Rico, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Argentina and other Latin American countries.

“The pieces we chose represent different realities, landscapes, traditions, ideas,” says Uribe, making clear that “Latinx people are not a monolithic culture: we are a compendium of many countries, ways of seeing life, different belief systems, varied influences.

“We hope that the diversity of our performers and program reflect the diversity of our own Hispanic community in Northwest Arkansas,” she says, “and that our choices invite our audience to feel uplifted, to feel seen and celebrated.”

“It feels like we’ve opened a door into incredible new possibilities, and the magnitude of our success last season has inspired us to venture even further into this new domain,” says Haas. “Frankly, it feels great, and it feels right!”

“This was an opportunity to have agency and make decisions about our common vision of our own Latin voices in context,” bassoonist Lia Uribe says of curating Voces Latinas with her SoNA colleagues Fernando Valencia, Raul Munguia and Cristian Martinez. (Courtesy Photo/Jared Mark Fincher)



SoNA Beyond:

Voces Latinas

WHEN — 6 p.m. Oct. 2

WHERE — Fayetteville Public Library Event Center

COST — Free


FYI — A free outdoor event will precede the concert at 4:30 p.m. in the library’s Gathering Glade. Register at



SoNA Beyond

Also scheduled as part of the SoNA Beyond series are a performance by world-renowned tabla artist Sandeep Das in February 2022 and, in April 2022, in celebration of National Poetry Month, the SoNA Singers will present a concert highlighting music’s ability to transform words from page to sound.

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