The trumpet who found he was someone else

The trumpet who found he was someone else


norman lebrecht

May 23, 2019

From the Baltimore Symphony musicians:

the BSO orchestra roster has changed slightly – René Hernandez, BSO trumpet player of 17 years, became René Shapiro.

Raised by a single mother, René was originally given the same surname as his half-siblings. Upon sending in a DNA test to learn about his paternal history, René discovered that he is 47% Ashkenazi Jewish! Through the DNA database, he was also able to contact his biological father’s sister and found out that his father was suffering from cancer.

René knew that he had to go to El Paso immediately if was going to have the chance to meet him. They we able to spend 13 days together before his father passed away.

“I wanted to change my name because he was the last Shapiro in his family, and he didn’t have any children. I also discovered that his grandfather was a cantor, so that’s where my musical side comes from.”

“I am so elated about what happened to me,” said René, “and I almost missed it. As people say, everything happens for a reason.”



  • anonymous says:

    A touching story indeed. A very touching human story of reuniting with one’s father.

    But the way it is presented here is like, well how do I put it…. “Look a hispanic one day, a Jew the next (and an Ashkenazi at that)!” with all the implied social/racial/cultural significations we all know, as though, well how do I put it…”he just won the golden ticket!”.

    Or is it just me? Well, just reverse the story: if he had been a Shapiro, but took a DNA test and found out he was 47% hispanic, and now is named Hernandez… Would the story be presented the same way?

    • Mr.Knowitall says:

      The sentence that you surrounded with quote marks — “Look a hispanic one day, a Jew the next (and an Ashkenazi at that)!” —isn’t in the post. You concocted the most negative interpretation of a man finding his natural father and discovering something about his paternal roots. The story doesn’t say, as your homemade quote implies, that Shaprio now denies his hispanic identity. He also doesn’t, as you imply, say that being Ashkenazi is some sort special elevated class of Jew. Most Jews, myself included, are Ashkenazi.

    • John Smith says:

      Don’t read too much into it, kid.

    • Die Rebbits'n says:

      With so little knowledge of Jewish history, you should stay Anonymous. This is simply the story of a Jew, a member of a Wandering Race, with a Hispanic ancestor, possibly a Converso, who once had a train ticket. (Save your quotation marks for quotations.)

    • sam says:

      I thought Judaism passes down from the mother.

      • Mr. Knowitall says:

        That’s the most conservative view and the simplistic explanation that dominates the popular press. Reform Jews and many others don’t necessarily see it that way.

    • Judy Katz says:

      What a cynic!

  • Olev says:

    Sometimes there are nice stories on this blog

  • Itsjtime says:

    Welcome to the tribe, guapo!

  • Michael says:

    I have met Rene and honestly thought he was part Native American. Maybe he is? The other 53% we don’t know anything about.

    A word about those DNA tests. The results usually become the property of the company doing the test. They can do whatever they want with the info. I think around 3 million Americans have done the tests. The DNA data banks are easily accesible. Law enforcement can now track down practically everybody, since they can narrow down a family on the basis of one test. From there they can look up your family and narrow down a DNA sample to find out who the sample belongs to. Think twice about doing these innocent seeming tests, since you are willingly giving up your biometric data that you will never get back.

    • Anon says:

      Wrong. There are all sorts of checks and balances in place, especially recently.

      The privacy issues (brought to light by the case of the Golden State Killer, who was discovered by law enforcement thru his dna matches) are exclusive to 2 sites. One is GEDMATCH, where the GSKiller was identified. It’s a non-commercial, public site used mostly by pro genealogists and they now have very strict guidelines about being able to opt out of law enforcement searches.

      The other site is 23 and Me, which works closely with pharmaceutical companies and is rumoured to be selling data to them. They have been shut down by the FDA once in the past. 23 and Me is the one to watch out for, IMHO.

      The main commercial sites like Ancestry or FTDNA or My Heritage have everything to lose by compromising your data. They are paid PRIVATE sites, you are buying a service from them, and neither law enforcement or big pharma or anyone else can access that data. There is no way it can be done. This is why law enforcement had to circumvent Ancestry & FTDNA to find the GS Killer, using Gedmatch, the non-commercial site.

      If you stick with the big companies (Ancestry has the biggest data base, and is reliable and safe) and opt in for all the privacy settings, you are going to be just fine.

      Please stop scaring people with these wild unfounded tales about law enforcement and so one. They are just not true.

      Like Mr. Shapiro, I found my bio father thru dna testing, after a lifetime of searching. I found a half sister also searching for family. We never could have done this if people were all too afraid to test.

      Genealogy and dna testing are here to stay. Learn how to use the sites wisely. Do your research, test with a reliable company and opt in for the privacy measures. You’ll be just fine, and you may be surprised what you’ll find!

    • Shlomo Cohen says:

      Somehow I keep imagining a Mexican maid and rich Jew oil exec that were both bored on a Tuesday afternoon several decades ago.

    • Anon says:

      Here’s one example of the security restrictions now in place for dna sites. Gedmatch, the only site which has ever been available for use by law enforcement, has changed its policy.

  • Karl says:

    I’m too scared to have my DNA tested.

  • Sanda Schuldmann says:

    Beautiful story. Very happy for you Rene!

  • Couperin says:

    I was expecting you to say she would now be known as “Renata”…

  • Steve says:

    The trumpet or the trumpeter?

  • Shlomo Cohen says:

    Oh he will definitely make it now.