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The woman leading this world-renowned orchestra is one of a kind. She's so fun to watch.

I'm not used to seeing a woman in this job, and it's so fun to see.

The woman leading this world-renowned orchestra is one of a kind. She's so fun to watch.

Maestra.

It's not a word that's used very often. Less than a dozen women lead major U.S. orchestras. Which is why I'm stoked to introduce you to Alondra de la Parra!


Image via Steven Pisano/Wikimedia Commons.

Maestra de la Parra first caught my attention in a video of her conducting.

GIFs via Orchestre de Paris.

It was spellbinding! I could just feel her zippy joy for life and love for her job.

So, of course, I had to find out more!

Turns out she was just appointed, at 34, as the music director of Queensland Symphony Orchestra in Australia.

Sophie Galaise, CEO of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, said, "The appointment of Alondra de la Parra is a turning point for the Queensland Symphony."

And de la Parra? She's pretty happy about it, too: "It's something very exciting because I have been preparing and working all my life, to be director of a fine institution. ... It's definitely a dream come true."

Maestra de la Parra was born in New York City and raised in Mexico City. She's been trained in conducting, piano performance, and cello.

With moves like this, you better believe she was up to some truly awesome things well before she got the Queensland gig.

De la Parra started her own orchestra in NYC at age 23 — the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas — to showcase young performers across the Americas.

Zing!

Classical music has always been a little Euro-centric, so forming an orchestra that highlights non-European talent? That's a really cool way to change perception in the classical music world.

What else was she up to?

De la Parra's own classical album made it to the top 10! NBD.

The first album she conducted, "Mi Alma Mexicana" ("My Mexican Soul"), was in the top 10 on the U.S. Billboard Classical Chart in 2010. It was also the first classical recording in a decade to go platinum in Mexico, just two months after its release.

She's also collaborated with cool celeb artists like Geoffrey Rush, Robert Redford, Michel Gondry, and Gloria Estefan!

Thinkin' about cellos.

And she frequently works with Plácido Domingo, who's a big fan of hers.

She's got an amazing passion for music, and she's kiiiinda not here for your labels.

When asked about being a female conductor, here's what she said:

"Music doesn't have a gender, and isn't gender-oriented. Every time I'm on the podium, I'm thinking of music — how I'm going to make this work better, how I'm going to make this sound cohesive, and how I'm going to communicate with the musicians — but I'm never thinking about how people will perceive me as a woman."

No, but seriously. Not here for those simplistic labels:

"I am a woman, I am a Mexican but that is just part of the many ingredients that make me who I am. It's more three dimensional than the particular labels."

Her reasons for loving conducting? You know, just the stuff that could lead to world peace.

"There's probably nowhere else in the world where you can share with 100 people something so precious and harmless and noble at the same time, with everyone. I don't think there's another activity where there are so many people engaged in something so pure and good. Simply good."


And she's spreading those good conducting vibes around the world. In 2003, she started a music program in schools in Harlem and Washington Heights, NYC.

Through this program, she's taking music down to the level where kids — even those with no music background — can participate.

"It ends where the kids actually compose a whole piece for orchestra, even kids who don't know how to read and write music. They do it by instinct, by singing and drawing and clapping."


Where are all the people who want to be involved in music? I must find them!

Based on de la Parra's thoughts about the skills orchestral music brings out in humans, the world definitely needs more of it:

"Anyone who knows how to play in an orchestra, and has been part of one, gets tools for life. Teamwork. Giving part of yourself for the other. Listening. Opening your ear and soul to take in everybody else's sound and ideas. Creating one unified idea. "

Um, can we get our politicians to play in an orchestra?

De la Parra knows that being yourself is the best thing you can do when it comes to conducting....

"We bring to the podium everything that one is. ... One can only be who one is and nothing else, it's the experiences of your life that you share with others."

...but let's be honest, also in life:

"I don't think there's any way that anyone can do wrong with good music. It's the concept of let's all get together and do something beautiful together. It's already a human statement that I think is unparalleled."



This move can only be described as "catch a bug and smile about it" — and it's great.

She's so cool!

And if you wanna listen to her orchestra while she conducts, here's your chance!

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

Ready for the weekend? Of course, you are. Here's our weekly dose of good vibes to help you shed the stresses of the workweek and put yourself in a great frame of mind.

These 10 stories made us happy this week because they feature amazing creativity, generosity, and one super-cute fish.

1. Diver befriends a fish with the cutest smile

Hawaiian underwater photographer Yuki Nakano befriended a friendly porcupine fish and now they hang out regularly.

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