By Lorelei Lin
Hispanic Heritage Month began on September 15th, a date which also marks Independence Day for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Today, musicians of Hispanic and Latinx heritage are doing incredible work and gaining visibility in the U.S. classical music sphere, an industry that has historically excluded artists of color. This year, we’re observing Hispanic Heritage Month by highlighting up-and-coming classical musicians and composers of Hispanic and Latinx heritage.
Violinist Amaryn Olmeda is the Sphinx Competition’s newest champion. She won the junior division, open to musicians ages 17 and under, at just 12 years old! The Sphinx Competition prize is the latest addition to Olmeda’s extensive list of other national and international awards, including first place at the Auburn Symphony Young Artists Competition and the Bach Award at the United States International Music Competition. When she’s not dazzling audiences throughout the US and Eastern Europe, Olmeda enjoys collecting American Girl dolls and gardening on her family’s hobby farm in Northern California. Listen to her first place performance below.
Are you an opera fan? If so, keep an eye out for Johanny Navarro’s ¿Y los Pasteles?. The Puerto Rican composer has written a wide variety of works, many rooted in Caribbean musical aesthetics. She has an extensive list of solo and ensemble credits, including work for the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra, and is now developing her second opera. ¿Y los Pasteles? features a love triangle, a Christmas party, and desserts! Watch her first chamber opera, Frenesí, below.
Mari Esabel Valverde
Activist, composer, and singer Mari Esabel Valverde has been commissioned by organizations across the United States. Her work honors her half-Indigenous, transgender, and female identity, with lyrics exploring LGBTQ+ history and experiences. Valverde, who is multilingual, has translated numerous vocal works, most notably a libretto from Ravel’s opera L’Enfant et les Sortilèges. Valverde has taught voice for many years and currently teaches singing and transgender voice training for TruVoice Lessons. Her piece “Crossing” interprets a poem by Amir Rabiyah as a metaphor for coming out. Listen below!
Originally from Mallorca, Spain, and now residing in the US, violinist Francisco Fullana performs internationally to great acclaim as a chamber musician and soloist. A lover of Baroque music, Fullana was recently named Artist-in-Residence for the GRAMMY-winning Baroque ensemble Apollo’s Fire. He has released two solo albums and will be featured on Apollo’s Fire’s recording of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, coming out October 21st. Listen to his thoughts on Bach below.
Violinist María Dueñas made waves at just 14 years old after winning first prize at the Zhuhai Mozart International Competition in China. Now 18, the Grenada, Spain-born artist was recently named a BBC New Generation artist for the 2021-2023 cohort. She has an extensive list of first place awards, including at the 2021 Menuhin Competition, and upcoming debuts with symphonies around the world.
Can vegetables make music? In Angélica Negrón’s hands, they definitely can. The Puerto Rico-born, New York-based composer and multi-instrumentalist arranges for robotic instruments and toys in addition to her work for chamber ensembles and orchestras. Her work has been heard at numerous festivals, in film scores, and even at a marathon, and she has upcoming premieres set for the LA Philharmonic and National Symphony Orchestra, among others.
Listen to her piece Hedera performed by Recap, a NY-based percussion quartet formed by female musicians of color.
For more music from Hispanic classical musicians, tune in to Concierto, WDAV’s bilingual program presented in Spanish and English, Sundays at 6 p.m. or at the WDAV archive.
Pictured: María Dueñas photo by Tam Lan Truong.