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Music Inside Out: Carlos Miguel Prieto

Carlos Miguel Prieto
Carlos Miguel Prieto

Carlos Miguel Prieto says he can’t dance and he’s no good at golf. Those may be the only pursuits that elude him. As a youngster, growing up in Mexico City, he wanted to play violin. So, he did. As a teenager, he wanted to become an engineer. So, he did. As a young man, he wanted to run a business. So, he did. And, in the 1990s, Prieto decided to give up industry and become a symphony conductor. So far, so good. 

“I’ve been doing it for about 20 years now and I thought maybe at some point I’m not going to love it as much as I do now,” he told Gwen recently. “I still do.” 

Prieto has conducted the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra for over a decade. He also leads the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Mexico (OSN), as well as the Orquesta Sinfónica de Minería (OSM). In 2015, Prieto toured with the Youth Orchestra of the Americas. Factor in his work as a popular guest conductor around the world and it’s fair to say that Prieto is a success story in classical music. 

“Success (in the arts) is measured in a very, very different way,’ he says. “Leonard Bernstein — one of the greatest conductors, composers and pianists of the 20th century used to say, ‘You can learn to keep the beat in five minutes. But you learn to conduct over your whole life.’ It’s the difference between beating time in Beethoven (No.) 5 and conducting Beethoven’s (No.) 5 and getting a performance of Beethoven (No.) 5.”  

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Gwen Thompkins is a New Orleans native, NPR veteran and host of WWNO's Music Inside Out, where she brings to bear the knowledge and experience she amassed as senior editor of Weekend Edition, an East Africa correspondent, the holder of Nieman and Watson Fellowships, and as a longtime student of music from around the world.