TIJUANA — The conductor calls it the "first orchestra of any kind in Tijuana's history."
Twice a week, 12 to 15 musicians assemble to rehearse pieces by the likes of Bach, Corelli, Vivaldi and perhaps a new work by Ensenada composer Felix Mora.
The members, who perform a repertory from the Renaissance to 20th-Century Mexico, are a diverse lot. A few are professionals, some are college students or church musicians, and others studied the violin as children and have taken up their instruments as adults.
A small chamber orchestra, the Camerata performs regularly at the Centro Cultural Tijuana and other halls in Baja and San Diego.
Formed in 1984, the group consisted mostly of amateur players until 1986, said Conductor Jose Alberto Ubach, who began the process of upgrading the ensemble. Alberto took the best players from the original group and added professionals from Tijuana, Ensenada and San Diego.
Fielding a small, primarily string ensemble can be difficult in Tijuana. "There's not a single cellist in Tijuana," Alberto said. "For some concerts, we use a pianist from Ensenada who's also a cellist, or we have to hire one from San Diego." When a concert calls for wind players, Alberto often must find a professional out of San Diego.
"It's hard to maintain continuity in the arts without having schools," said Alberto, who is studying conducting at San Diego State University. "Tijuanans want to study the arts in a serious manner. But they have to go out of the city or out of the country. Since San Diego is closer than Mexico City, more study there. But some don't come back."
While the Tijuana campus of the University of Baja California offers various courses in the arts, students cannot earn a degree in music. But that may be changing. The university has plans to open a school of music within two years, Alberto said.