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Article posted: 4/3/2013 8:15 AM

Born in Venezuela, they meet again in Elgin

Jose Luis Gomez, left, guest conductor at the Elgin Symphony Orchestra’s Nature’s Awakening concerts this weekend, grew up in the same Venezuelan city as Leo Urdaneta, owner of Elgin’s Domani Cafe.

Jose Luis Gomez, left, guest conductor at the Elgin Symphony Orchestra's Nature's Awakening concerts this weekend, grew up in the same Venezuelan city as Leo Urdaneta, owner of Elgin's Domani Cafe.


Courtesy of Elgin Symphony Orchestra

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By Elgin Symphony Orchestra

Two remarkable men, both born 2,390 miles away in Maracaibo, Venezuela, met for coffee in Elgin this week.

José Luis Gomez, a world famous symphony conductor, will be the guest conductor for the Elgin Symphony Orchestra this week. He is also in the running for the new music director position at the ESO, which will be decided this May after a two-year international search.


Leo Urdaneta is the owner of Domani Café on Highland Avenue in downtown Elgin. The coffee and sandwich shop is always bustling at breakfast and lunchtime, with Leo knowing everyone's name and favorite sandwich or coffee.

When José was in Elgin last year as a guest conductor for the ESO, he and Leo were surprised to find that they were actually from the same hometown in Venezuela. When José revisited Domani Café on Monday, they also discovered they both attended the same music school, Conservatorio del Estado Zulia. José was in the school studying violin from the age of 11. Leo was a baritone singer and was in the school from age 16 to 19. Both developed a passion for music from their families. Jose's father was a professional musician, founder of the Maracaibo Symphony orchestra and one of the first teachers to give lessons on the well known "Sistema" of youth orchestras of Venezuela.

Besides the love of music, both men love Elgin. Leo, who moved to Elgin in 2000, likes the small town feeling and has made many friends through his business. He is also a regular ESO patron and a sponsor for the Nature's Awakening concert featuring José April 5-7. José remembers the warm welcome he received a year ago from the Elgin audiences and said they were "very supportive and proud of their own orchestra."

The final thing these two Venezuelans have in common is their love of coffee. While Leo serves all kinds at Domani Café every day, José's favorite is "a very good sharp and rich espresso."

The Nature's Awakening concert will feature Beethoven's Symphony No. 6 in F major, "Pastoral;" and Haydn's Symphony No. 88 in G major; along with the talents of Amy Porter on the flute as she performs Nielsen's Concerto for Flute and Orchestra with the ESO. Performances will be held at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 5, at the Schaumburg Prairie Center of the Arts, 201 Schaumburg Court; and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 6, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 7, at Elgin's Hemmens Cultural Center, 45 Symphony Way. Tickets start at $28 and can be purchased through the ESO Box Office (847) 888-4000; or by visiting

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