Diary: a week in the life of Fernando Saint Martin


The department of music is part of the cultural dissemination coordination of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, UNAM). Today the cultural dissemination coordinator and associated directors gather for a meeting. This happens four times a year. Our main task today is to propose some candidates for the National University Award, which is one of the most important awards given by the university. I present my suggestions for the category of artistic performance and extension of culture.

Back at the office I have a meeting with the manager of Orquesta Filarmónica de la UNAM (OFUNAM), our professional orchestra. We continue working on the last details of our UK tour taking place next July. Later on, I meet with the manager of our youth orchestra, Orquesta Juvenil Universitaria Eduardo Mata (OJUEM), which embarks on its first European tour this September. We are very happy because this year both our orchestras will go on a major tour.

I’m an active pianist, so when I get back home I sit down at the piano and practise for about two hours (something I try to do every day).


Today I work with the chamber music coordinator of the department and we finish planning the concert season for the second semester of the year. We usually play at the beautiful Sala Nezahualcóyotl hall, though we also have a chamber music hall, and provide chamber groups to other spaces that we have around the city and to the different schools of our university. We offer more than 200 chamber music concerts a year in our venues as well as many lectures to UNAM’s high school students.

After practising for an hour in my office where I have an electric piano, I attend an informal reception at the residence of the ambassador of the Armenian Republic with some of our staff. We collaborated with them to bring the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra to Mexico for a concert tomorrow night at Sala Nezahualcóyotl.


I’m up for an early meeting with the head of the union of our professional orchestra to negotiate the conditions of our third season (September to December). Then I head upstairs to our new video cabin. We have a system of seven robotic cams controlled from the cabin – hopefully in September we will have live streaming for OFUNAM’s season. This project started more than a year ago and I work with the person in charge to talk about the final details.

In the evening I attend the concert of the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra and host the diplomatic corps of Armenia and other countries invited by the Armenian Ambassador.


OFUNAM rehearse from Wednesday to Saturday and have two concerts each weekend: one on Saturday evening and the other one on Sunday at noon. Today I go to see the first part of the rehearsal. I like to do this at least once a week. I sit at the back of the hall and OFUNAM’s general manager sits with me; we use this time to talk about small but very important issues going on in the orchestra.

In the afternoon I have a meeting with the dean of the university, during which we discuss some special projects he wants us to do this year and some others for 2016.

This evening I spend time with my wife. We go to see La traviata presented by Ópera de Bellas Artes. I think this is a perfect way to finish the day.


I’m at the office early this morning to meet the video production crew. The cultural dissemination coordination has asked all the directors to film a short promotional video about the vision of each department, and the activities planned for the second semester.

Later on I go to the hall and together with Jan Latham-Koenig (the artistic director of OFUNAM), Gustavo Rivero Weber (artistic director of OJUEM and OFUNAM’s concertmaster), judge the final round of the School of Music’s soloist competition. The winners will play with our orchestras. This time we will have one playing with OJUEM and two playing with OFUNAM.

Our youth orchestra rehearses in the early afternoon. Like with OFUNAM, I like to sit at the back of the hall where I listen to the rehearsal with OJUEM’s general manager and we also talk about how the week went. Being a youth orchestra, OJUEM prepares a concert over the course of two weeks. The first week is used for sectional rehearsals and a couple of tutti; then in the second week they work together as a professional orchestra. OJUEM’s concerts are held on Sunday evenings.


I spend the morning with my wife at home. I usually practise the piano for three or four hours. I try to relax and forget a bit about the office. We go to buy our groceries at an organic farm and then its back home to cook our food for the week. We try to have lunch together every day.

In the evening we go to Sala Nezahualcóyotl to see the orchestra. As usual, the concert is a success, everybody is happy. After the performance we take the conductor and soloists for a nice dinner.


It is the only day of the week when we can get up late and we really enjoy it. I spend the morning with my wife and then practise again for a couple of hours before joining my parents for lunch. After our meals and a good talk, I practise a little more. At 5.30pm we return to Sala Nezahualcóyotl for OJUEM’s concert. When I finally arrive home I message my personal assistant to review the activities for the week ahead.

Fernando Saint Martin is general director of music at UNAM.