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Guerra String Orchestra Immortalizes Overlooked American Composers with Mojave Audio

Latin Grammy-winning composer and professor on the importance of shining a light on American classical composers and capturing the intensity of orchestral performances in a recording

LOS ANGELES, CA, November 1, 2023 — Composer, producer, and music educator Dr. Yalil Guerra has been a passionate standard bearer for modern orchestral music for more than three decades. In addition taking home a Latin Grammy in the Best Contemporary Classical Composition for his piece Seducción in 2012, Guerra’s work has been performed by orchestras, chamber ensembles, and soloists around the world and he has taught music at institutions such as UCLA, College of the Canyons, Cal Poly Pomona, LACM, and most recently Ventura College. A keen student of history as well as music, Guerra has recently launched a series of performances with his GSO-Guerra String Orchestra — an ensemble he conducts and prepares the program dedicated to celebrating the works of lesser-known American composers, including Aurelio de la Vega, Ian Krouse, Bernardo Feldman, Samuel Barber, and himself. As part of his effort to document these works in full, Guerra partnered with Mojave Audio to capture live recordings of these performances and ensure that these vital works in the American classical repertoire reach the audience they deserve.—YAla4?si=g9RZuG6W6r2I-_c1

Honoring the history of American music with an eye towards the future

The Guerra String Orchestra grew organically into a passion project for Guerra out of interactions that he had teaching music history. Realizing that many music students were unfamiliar with American orchestral composers — especially ones from diverse ethnic backgrounds — led Guerra to dream up a format that would put American composers in the front seat of the repertoire, while also shining a light on those that may have been looked over in the past. “These concerts were a personal project designed to fill a space for American composers that is very much needed, in my view,” explained Guerra. “Composers from African American, Latin, Jewish, and other minority backgrounds were not being well-represented in concert halls despite creating vital, important orchestral music that makes up the fabric of American musical history.”

“Putting this ensemble together and holding these performances allow us to shine a light on their work and add something fresh and exciting to the American classical repertoire.”

The first performances of Guerra’s new program were at the St. Andrew Catholic Church in Pasadena, California. In addition to the concerts themselves which boasted upwards of 500 in attendance apiece, Guerra also had the performances filmed and recorded for posterity so that anyone who wanted to hear them would have the opportunity to do so. To ensure the highest quality of audio, he partnered with longtime friends and collaborators Mojave Audio to assist with capturing the sound of the orchestra. “It can be quite difficult to capture the sound of a full orchestral ensemble in a way that does justice to performances like these,” he said. “I’ve known the Mojave guys for over 15 years and I knew that they and their microphones would be exactly what we needed for the task.”

Bringing warmth and depth to the sounds of a string ensemble

Prior to the performances themselves, Guerra worked directly with Mojave Audio President Dusty Wakeman during rehearsals to find the proper ‘sweet spots’ for microphone placement within the church that would capture the direct sound properly while also doing justice to the majestic natural reverb of the church. Five Mojave Microphones were placed close to the Violin and Viola sections, Cello, and Double Bass players to capture the direct sound of the players. Two more — one directly above Guerra’s head facing inward, another within the first few rows — captured the ensemble from a distance to give a sense of space to the proceedings. “Mojave microphones have an inherent warmth to them that work incredibly well when capturing strings,” Guerra said. “You can get all the brightness you need from how you place them, but that incredible roundness of the tone you get from the mix of the natural sound and the harmonics are simply amazing.”

“I’ve trusted these microphones in my own studio for years on all sorts of instruments, and hearing them in this context proved how wonderfully detailed they are for so many different things.”

Many of those details became especially apparent once the time came to mix the audio for the videos after the performances were complete. As Guerra was conducting the ensemble during the performance, this was his first chance to really sit with and enjoy the fruits of his labors. The results stunned him. “When I am performing, I am just listening for pure sound in the moment,” he explained. “Once you’ve opened the session and start listening to the actual recording comes the ‘wow’ moment though — it’s like a totally new experience.”

“Putting everything together and hearing all that detail together, perfectly balanced, and with the power of that massive room behind it, it’s a truly amazing sound and shows what these Mojave microphones can really do.”

With several follow-up performances on the calendar and plans to submit the recordings to the Grammy Awards, Guerra isn’t slowing down anytime soon. As the project continues to grow and evolve, he is mindful of the opportunity present to connect a new generation of listeners to a legacy of American music that is ready to be heard with fresh ears. “This program is really about establishing a connection to American composers because it’s a part of American culture that more people need to be aware of.” he said. “People deserve to know the sounds and melodies of these composers. With any luck, these performances and recordings will help them dive into it whole-heartedly.”

“Mojave Audio gave me a lot of luck in my musical career — the majority of my Latin Grammy nominations were of music made with these microphones,” he concluded. “So having them involved fits the goals and sounds of what we want to achieve.” 

For more information about Dr. Yalil Guerra, please visit

For more information about Mojave Audio, please visit Mojave Audio
Mojave Audio was founded by Technical Grammy Award winning David Royer, widely known for his ribbon microphone designs with Royer Labs. Mojave Audio makes world-class microphones for Artists and Engineers who are passionate about their sound.