Students surprise 98-year-old master violinist

Alamo Heights strings students play concert for Raphael DeCastro


SAN ANTONIO – It wasn't Carnegie Hall, but for master violinist Raphael DeCastro, the concert was just as sweet.

The venue was Parklane West, the senior living center that 98-year-old DeCastro calls home. 

More than a dozen students from Woodridge Elementary and Cambridge Elementary slipped into the center's music room with their violins, violas, cellos and basses  to prepare to play a surprise concert.

It was DeCastro's wish to hear children play his beloved classical orchestra music, and hopefully to play his violin with them.

Bracing his weathered hands on his walker, DeCastro entered to the strains of instruments being tuned. 

It was music to his ears.

"Nobody  told me about it until the last moment," he said. "It's quite a surprise."

As the students played "Enter the Heroes" and  Beethoven's "Ode to Joy", DeCastro took in every trill and every vibrato of the bows. If there was a less-than-perfect sound, his face didn't show it.

The Parlane West skilled nursing community, 2 Towers Park Lane, made DeCastro's wish come true so he could share his love of music with children.

Born in Colombia in 1915, DeCastro studied at the Conservatory Orchestra of Bogata. He came to the United States and 1942 to study at Northwestern University. 

During his long career in music he served as a music professor at Amarillo College, worked with the Trinity Orchestra and served as assistant conductor of the San Antonio Symphony.

The chance to play for DeCastro was a thrill for the 11-year-old students as well.

"It was really fun. I like playing for someone who's played before," said cellist Catherine Rhame.

Visiting with the children after the recital, DeCastro  told them practice is the key to success.  And, he joked, "If you want to take lessons, I'd be happy to help you." 

While the concert was for DeCastro, it was his message that seemed to strike a chord.

"You should be able to enjoy music all your life, not just as a child," he said.

He invited the students to return another day so he could play his violin with them.

For a list of recent stories Marilyn Moritz has done, click here.

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