West Side Connection

The 2023 West Side Connection will feature violinist Ana Isabella España, winner of the 2022 Sphinx Competition, playing Camille Saint-Saëns Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso.

Isabella has been playing the violin since the age of four. A native of New York City, she studies at the Kaufman Music Center’s Special Music School High School. She has been awarded top prizes in numerous competitions, and was named the Eastern Division Senior Strings winner of the 2023 Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) Competition. In 2019, she won first prize at the Rising Talents of America’s International Competition.

Isabella has been enjoying a diverse musical career as a solo, orchestra, and chamber musician. She has been featured on National Public Radio’s (NPR) “From the Top” show, and has performed with Grammy-award winning violinist Joshua Bell. In 2022, Isabella was invited to perform Florence Price’s Fantasy No. 2 on The Kelly Clarkson Show and also shared her experience as co-author of her published book, “Who is Florence Price?”

Isabella is currently a first violinist for the Grammy-nominated New York Youth Symphony (NYYS) Orchestra. She is also the Associate Concertmistress of the Special Music School High School Concert Orchestra, where she also performs in a piano quintet. She was also a member of the contemporary Face the Music Mikka String Quartet. Isabella’s orchestral mentor is Julia Choi of The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.

Ana Isabella España, 2022 Sphinx Competition winner
Ana Isabella España, 2022 Sphinx Competition winner
Sterling Elliott, 2014 Sphinx Competition winner

West Side Connection, a recipient of the Yale Distinguished Music Partnership Award, enables the BPO to reach out to its international community in the diverse Buffalo area. Through educational activities, guest artist visits and a culminating concert, this project involves students in the Buffalo Public schools, including three Spanish bilingual schools, a Native American magnet school and three international schools serving the population of recent and past immigrants from diverse countries. Exploring diversity under the umbrella of music — a theme uniting all cultures across the globe — allows us to address relevant social issues through an exciting and educational medium.

Hundreds of refugees arrive in Western New York each year from countries all over the world through the US Refugee Resettlement Program. Many of those refugees settle in Buffalo, and a large percentage of them live on the West Side in the neighborhoods surrounding Kleinhans Music Hall. Over half of the refugees arriving each year are from Asia, specifically from Burma and Bhutan. The next largest ethnic group arriving is from Africa; the third largest is from the Middle East. There is also a well-established Puerto Rican community on the West Side. West Side Connection was developed in response to the growth of these populations and through a desire to make an authentic connection with our international community through the powerful entry point of music.

African American Cultural Center
Students from International Preparatory School perform onstage as part of the West Side Connection.

Each year, the program features collaborations with local and national organizations and artists. Past guest artists include the young winners of the Sphinx Competition, a national competition for Black and Latinx string players; the Dance and Drum Company from the African American Cultural Center; dancers from the Latin American Institute, Burmese Community Choir from the International Institute; Puerto Rican composer Roberto Sierra; composer and violinist Daniel Roumain; conductor Joseph Young; Toronto percussion ensemble TorQ Percussion Quartet; nationally known Project Trio; B-boy Shane Dupree Fry of Verve Dance Studio and Druminar which provides interactive drum experiences in Latin and African traditions.

Sample curriculum from 2013

In addition to the students served directly by the program, for the last six years, the final concert has been shared with many thousands of students across Western New York through our BPO Broadcast On Demand.

West Side Connection is made possible by the Buffalo Public Schools, Better Buffalo Fund, National Endowment for the Arts, Uniland Development, and the City of Buffalo.