Valencia Graduate Student Channels Passion for Film Music to Conduct Orchestra | Berklee Valencia Campus

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Valencia Graduate Student Channels Passion for Film Music to Conduct Orchestra

Fernando Furones and his classmate Elaine Lizardo. Image credit: Abhinav Agrawal

When Fernando Furones arrived at Berklee's campus in Valencia, Spain last spring as part of the Berklee Study Abroad program, he knew one thing: he wanted to create his own student film orchestra. Furones’s enthusiasm quickly attracted the attention of the founder of Fundación Fuvane, an organization using music as part of a pioneering method to combat cerebral palsy and other neurological disorders in children.

The foundation soon booked a benefit concert for the student orchestra at the city’s prestigious Palau de la Musica. But there was just one little problem.

“We didn’t have the orchestra,” says Furones.

He and his friend Elaine Lizardo, whom he’d met while studying as an undergraduate on Berklee’s Boston campus and who was a Study Abroad classmate in Valencia, had been recruiting student musicians since the semester started, but they were not yet close to assembling a full-fledged orchestra.

“We were missing some key positions, like viola or second bassoon,” says Furones, speaking recently by Skype from Spain, so he and Lizardo began seeking musicians all throughout Valencia.

“I saw a guy walking in the street with a case like a bassoon," Furones says. "I asked him if he’d play, and he said, ‘Yes, why not?’

“We were like stalkers,” he adds with a laugh.

In the end, the students rounded up 66 musicians to take part in the concert, which took place in late April. More than 1,000 patrons showed up to hear the orchestra perform some of the film world’s most iconic soundtracks, from John Williams’s work for the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises to one of Furones’s favorites, Hans Zimmer’s score for Gladiator.

Watch a segment of the concert:

Circling Back to Music

Furones, 28, studied film scoring at Berklee in Boston for two and a half years before beginning his program in Valencia. As a boy growing up in Madrid, he dreaded his piano lessons. Then one day, an uncle urged him to carry on with his music. His uncle’s one regret was that he’d quit his own music lessons when he was young.

“For some reason, that was a shock to me,” Furones recalls.

He took that advice to heart and, as a teenager, he took up guitar and joined an improvisational rock band.

“We had no idea of theory or anything,” he says. “We were chaotic, all playing solos at the same time. It was a lot of fun, but it sounded like a mess.”

But one part of the experience in particular led to his eventual immersion in film scoring. “We always described what we did as being very suitable for pictures,” he says. “I’m a person that sees music in images. I always imagine something going on apart from the sound.”

It wasn’t until he graduated from college in his native Spain with a business degree, he claims, that he realized that there were professional opportunities in film scoring. During a vacation from the office job he’d landed after graduation, he attended Berklee’s Five-Week Summer Performance Program in Boston. It was an eye-opener.

“It was one of the first times in my life I saw people like me,” he says. “I always felt a little weird with people who don’t think about music all day. I came back and said, 'I don’t want to work in an office ever again.'”

And he never has. He's serious about a career in music, through his pursuits first as a Berklee undergraduate in Boston and in Valencia, and now as a graduate student enrolled in the Valencia campus' scoring for film, television, and video games master's degree program. By all accounts, Furones is already experiencing fulfillment—the highlight of which came when he stepped onstage at Palau de la Musica to conduct the orchestra he’d assembled. It was the first time he’d ever conducted outside of rehearsals.

After presiding over the musicians’ renditions of the themes to Pirates of the Caribbean and Jurassic Park, Furones stepped down to make room for the next guest conductor. He would return to the stand later in the show. Having survived that first test— seeing the concert through to fruition—he now allowed himself to relax a bit, for the first time in months.

“I told myself, 'Now I’m a conductor,'” he remembers. “'Now I can enjoy rest of the show.' And from that point on, I enjoyed it.”

After the frantic preparations of his spring semester, Furones says he spent the summer telling himself “never again.” Now, however, he has renewed energy as he engages in the graduate program.

“The orchestra has been asking, ‘When are we doing it again?’” he says with another laugh.