Auler performed George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" at joint concerts titled "The Bridge" featuring the El Paso Symphony Youth Orchestras and Esperanza Azteca Symphony Orchestra of Ciudad Juarez in their respective locations in Texas and Mexico.
The concerts -- Jan. 28 in El Paso and Jan. 29 in Ciudad Juarez -- followed months of planning and ultimately unfolded during a time of heated political discussions about immigration, but Auler said the people involved were most invested in presenting an enjoyable musical program.
"It felt really apolitical," Auler said of his time with the musical groups, as politics "didn't come up. We were too busy having fun with each other."
Auler happily accepted the invitation to perform from James Welsch, a friend and Syracuse University graduate who is now the associate conductor of the El Paso Symphony and conductor of the El Paso Youth Orchestra. Welsch served as conductor for the performances, and did so magnificently, Auler said.
Auler's concerto was the second piece of the concert, which featured large ensembles of young musicians and vocalists who impressed the international-award-winning pianist.
"It was a real high-level performance," Auler said. "Many of these kids are very good."
The Dallas Morning News said about 1,400 people attended the El Paso performance, with another 1,500 filling a Ciudad Juarez concert hall.
"It was so beautiful. Afterward there were so many tears, tears of appreciation, joy," Maria McCullough, business manager for the El Paso Symphony Youth Orchestras, told the paper.
Auler agreed that the "buoyant, beautiful" mood and skill of the participants provided uplifting entertainment. "I was heartened by the level of dedication and commitment on the part of the young performers," he noted.
The concert felt, to him, like "what the world would be like if you stripped away the negativity and were left with just positivity," Auler said.