El Taller Latino Americano celebrates our 35th Anniversary with 35 Years Taller. From musicians to visual artists to educators to community activists, these events will bring communities together to celebrate the beauty and truth that El Taller supports in the face of eviction and serve as a benefit for the next 35 years.
"35 Years Taller is a positive protest, a propuesta (proposal) rather than a protesta (protest). This is a one-of-a-kind opportunity to bring together 35 years of El Taller's connection with luminaries of the art, music and political communities, all of whom are part of the physical and metaphysical archives of the organization and whose history with El Taller will be displaced by our eviction from our home for the past 17 years." said Bernardo Palombo, El Taller's founder. "We don't look at this as a desperate fight for survival," continued Palombo. "This is an opportunity for our renaissance."
To celebrate our 35 Years, we have decided to honor a select few of our Taller Friends who have supported beauty and truth by giving their talent and creativity to engage dialogue and bring value to community with the newly created Chaski Award.
What is a Chaski? The internet will tell you that a Chaski is a highly trained and agile runner who delivered messages during the Incan Empire. Mythically, Chaskis guarded the Puerta del Sol (Bolivia) monument stones, serving to represent the immutability of time. More than a delivery person, the Chaskis connected communities by sharing information and created linkages that allowed an empire to exist and thrive. In this way, our Chaski honorees have delivered their artistic messages for over several decades to the many communities of El Taller, NYC and across the Americas, creating a bridge across cultures through beauty and truth.
Bernardo approached the late Pete Seeger in September 2013, asking Pete if he thought it would be a good idea to honor Taller Friends with a Chaski Award for our anniversary and if Pete would like to receive the first Chaski Award. Pete responded, "Bernardo, after 35 years of struggle and bringing communities together, you can give out any awards you like. And, I would be honored to receive a Chaski from El Taller." Pete will receive his award posthumously in July 2014.
Invigorated with the support of Pete, El Taller believes that honoring these 14 artists, musicians, educators, and community members pays tribute to their sacrifice, but acknowledge their support as ambassadors to the community and El Taller.
No good celebration occurs without struggle. In October 2013, we learned that our landlord, Prana Investments, decided that when our lease ended in July of 2014, they would raise our rent: from $7.5k a month to $17k a month, a $120,000 year increase!
El Taller Latino Americano has thrived for 35 years through the creativity, selflessness and support of our founder Bernardo Palombo and his group of teachers, musicians, artists, and students. Through Spanish classes, musical performances, visual art installations or just sharing a cup of coffee, we have helped foster a space that our community across NYC have come to know and love. Now, during our 35th Anniversary celebration, "35 Years Taller", we are faced with losing our home.
As a result, El Taller has sought out the support of our friends and elected officials and recently received support from newly-elected Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and newly-elected Council Members Helen Rosenthal and Mark Levine, as well as Assembly Member O'Donnell.
Now, we ask that you by sign our petition at Change.Org: to help prevent our eviction.
With your support El Taller Latino Americano will continue to thrive in our current NYC location and serve as a space for creativity and community, as we work toward our 35th Anniversary celebration that includes Leon Gieco, David Byrne, El Topo, Reverend Billy and The Stop Shopping Choir, among others.
Adam Feder and the Shul band are a dynamic, overflowing, mesmerizing, prayerful and delightful ensemble of musicians. The group brings together a diverse feast of musical styles and cultural backgrounds to serve up a deliciously hypnotizing soulful stew of beauty and fun. The band is comprised of violin, mandolin, bass, clarinet, piano, percussion and song has been referred to has modern "jewgrass".
Antonio Cabán Vale, "El Topo," is a guitarist, singer, poet and composer, revered by his fellow Puerto Ricans for his danza Verde Luz (Green Light), which is considered the unofficial anthem of Puerto Rico and has been sung and interpreted by numerous performers worldwide. One of the founders of the “nueva canción" (new song) movement of the early 70s in Puerto, El Topo’s repertory of songs are known and sung by generations of Puerto Ricans both on the islands and in the United States. His anthem, shared across generations, is one of the few remaining links to a disappearing generation of Puerto Ricans in NYC.
El Topo and Bernardo Palombo, El Taller’s founder, met in the early 70s, where they were both part of the Latin American protest music movement. Over the next decade, they performed together in various concerts, both in Latin American and in the United States. When Bernardo founded El Taller in March of 1979, El Topo was there to perform and open the space.
El Topo is represents the truth, honor and beauty that El Taller represents in sharing the music and culture of the Americas. He is being honored with the Chaski for singing the song of the homeland, and through that, linking a diaspora.
Bernardo Palombo is the founder and Artistic Director of El Taller Latino Americano™. He began the Workshop in 1979 in a small space on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and moved to the current location on Broadway and 104th Street in 1996.
Born in Mendoza, Argentina, Palombo achieved his first musical success at the age of 17 when his song "Vendimiador" was recorded by the legendary Argentinean vocal group, Los Trovadores, and became an immediate and long-lasting hit. He moved to New York City in 1969 and continued to write songs that have been recorded by some of the best-known exponents of Latin music in New York and Nueva Canción in South America including Mercedes Sosa, Philip Glass, Conjunto Libre and Lucecita Benitez. Palombo also became a musical consultant and composer for film and television, involving himself in such diverse and innovative projects as the Lucas/Coppola production of Powaqqatsi, the film Americas in Transition and the PBS show Sesame Street, who have featured some of his Spanish language songs.
Bernardo's musical background and 30+ years of teaching inspired the development of El Taller's unique acoustic based language programs for adults and children. Prior to founding El Taller, Bernardo taught at the New School, Sarah Lawrence, Yeshiva University and the United Nations School. But it is at El Taller that his vision for language education flourished. In recognition of his unique contribution to the education and the arts, Bernardo received the Independent Educator's Award from Teachers College at Columbia University and numerous grants from the National Endowment of the Arts.
Dr. Carlos and Isabel Navarro are the founders of CASA MÉXICO, a non-profit community organization that advocates on behalf on the Mexican and immigrant community, and for the community, at large. Casa México offers assistance, advice and classes to newly-arrived Latino immigrants on such crucial issues as education, labor, health and documentation and provides referrals to hospitals and social service organizations, as needed. The organization provides free English classes to help their immigrant constituency integrate, while working to preserve the cultural and spiritual traditions of their clients through an ongoing series of guitar classes and musical events. And this is what the Navarro's dedicate their lives to in their retirement.
In addition to his work as Executive Director of the organization, Dr. Navarro is a senior professor of pathology at Columbia Presbyterian. Isabel Navarro is a long-time community activist and advocate, promoter of justice and creator of change.
The Navarros have been heroically providing assistance to generations of Latino immigrants; in 2000, they founded Casa México as an official non-profit organization. Since 2006, Casa México and El Taller have been sharing space and coordinating English classes and guitar classes. All free of charge.
The Navarros are being honored with a Chaski Award for their selfless vision to create a world that supports the immigrant community and provide access to education, art, and dialogue for the voiceless of NYC.
Cesare Civetta has conducted more than 60 orchestras in 28 countries, including notable performances in China, South Africa, Sweden, Poland, Romania, and Russia. In China, he was hailed as the first foreign-born conductor to conduct at the Wuhan Conservatory of Music. He also gave master classes and conducted the orchestras of the Beijing, Shanghai and Shenyang conservatories. In Russia, Mr. Civetta has the unique distinction of being the first American to conduct a transcontinental tour of the former Soviet Union. In the U.S., he has conducted in a variety of venues, including Lincoln Center and Madison Square Garden. His performances have been broadcast live on National Public Radio, Swedish Radio, Voice of America, and the South African Broadcasting Company; ABC, CBS, and NBC have included telecasts featuring Civetta’s U.S. concerts. He resides in New York City where he is the founder and music director of the Beethoven Festival Orchestra.
Songwriter and performer Dan Zanes is the front man of the Grammy-winning group Dan Zanes and Friends and a founding member of the popular 1980s band, the Del Fuegos. Dan first came to El Taller in the mid-90s to take Spanish classes and ended up performing at a concert to celebrate El Taller’s anniversary. Dan’s crossover album "Nueva York", was selected as Best Children’s CD nationally in 2008 by the Independent Music Awards, was recorded at ET Taller, Bernardo Palombo, serving as the album's Executive Producer.
Dubbed the "Pete Seeger for the new century" by the Washington Post, Zane’s repertoire of blues, rock and folk songs makes him a popular phenomenon among adults and kids alike. As described by The New York Times, "Zanes' kids music works because it is not kids music; it's just music—-music that's unsanitized, unpasteurized, that's organic even."
Dan has recorded with a host of artists, including Susanne Vega and Phillip Glass, further expanding the music access of music to the community.
Dan is being honored with El Taller’s Chaski award in recognition of his long association with El Taller and for bringing a new world of crossover music to children.
David Byrne is a musician, singer-songwriter, artist, writer, actor and film, stage and record director and producer. Best known as a founding member and principal songwriter of the American new wave band, Talking Heads, David has been involved in all aspects of the arts over the course of his illustrious career. He has received Grammy, Oscar and Golden Globe awards and has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
David will receive the Chaski Award with Leon Geico to celebrate his longstanding relationship with El Taller and his seminal work on bringing Latin American music to the U.S.
David first became involved with El Taller as a Spanish student in 1987, in preparation for a Latin American tour. In 1990, he performed at a benefit concert for El Taller, where he met and performed with Pete Seeger and Leon Gieco, singing Guantanamera with Pete Seeger and Leon Gieco, then found himself on stage singing his Spanish homework with Leon Gieco.
In 1990, David founded the world music record label, Luaka Bop, which was created to release Latin American compilations, but has grown to include music from Cuba, Africa, the Far East and beyond. Through his connections with Bernardo, Byrne has met a host of Latin American performers whom he has brought to wider distribution in the U.S. Included are such performers as the Afro-Peruvian singer, Susanna Baca, and Cuba’s best-known folk singer, Silvio Rodriguez. The liner notes for "Canciones Urgente", an anthology of songs by Silvio Rodriguez, were written by David, Bernardo and Frank Fernandez.
Dave Soldier is known for a wild and startling range of collaborations. From the 14-elephant orchestra he conducted at the Thai Elephant Conservation Center to The Brainwave Music Project played on the performer’s brainwaves, working with child composers, featuring 2-10 year old schoolchildren from Brooklyn, East Harlem and Guatemala.
Dave is a founder of the Soldier String Quartet, a punk chamber group, the Kropotkins, a punk delta blues band, The Spinozas, playing lyrics from Arabic and Hebrew poetry from medieval Andalusia and SoldierKane, a musical duo who play a blend of R&B, Blues, Classical and minimalist trance-rock.
In his alter life, when not composing, performing, recording or collaborating on music projects, Dave is in his lab as David Sulzer, Ph.D., neuroscientist and professor at Columbia University, researching the connections that underlie memory, learning and behavior responsible for such diseases as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, autism, and drug addiction.
Dave has been a Spanish student at El Taller and a long-time collaborator with Bernardo Palombo. Together, Dave and Bernardo recorded "Serra Pelada" (lyrics by Bernardo, music by Phillip Glass) for the experimental movie "Powaqqatsi."
Over the years, Dave has performed many times with his different bands and groups. Truly part of the El Taller family, Dave and his wife renewed their vows at El Taller.
Dave will be receiving the Chaski Award in recognition of his lifelong work in music, language exploration and for bringing his talents and creativity to rethink how we process sound and memory.
Eric Darton is a native New Yorker and cultural historian whose books include Divided We Stand: A Biography of New York's World Trade Center (Basic Books, 1999, 2011), and Free City, a novel, (WW Norton, 1996). The final two books of his five-volume cultural memoir Notes of a New York Son, 1995-2007 were published in November, 2013. He teaches at several colleges including the Harry Van Arsdale Center for Labor Studies and is a (happily) perennial student at El Taller.
His New York Times bestselling book, Divided We Stand: A Biography of New York's World Trade Center, captured the 20th Century culture that epitomized urbanism, architecture, globalization and terrorism. Now, as he documents the World, through his literary blog Book of the World Courant, Eric explores the situation of the writer in modern society, and the ways in which language and power are no longer binary. It is this complexity that allows him to continue to explore and expand the literary discourse.
An active participant in shaping the arts and philosophies of NYC, Darton’s public lectures and talks include: “Arcadian Rhythms in the Concrete Jungle: Utopian New York From the Automat to Adam Purple and Beyond” (for the 2001 New York Public Library-Bibliothèque Nationale program Utopia: the Search for the Ideal Society in the Western World), “Last Exit to Utopia: Notes on the Byrdcliff Moment and The Road to Now,” (commissioned in 2003 for the 100th anniversary celebration of the first Catskills arts colony), and “Brave New York: Between Utopia & Free City,” a tertulia presented at Instituto Cervantes, NYC (2007).
Gordon Gano is a musician, actor and songwriter best known as the lead singer and guitarist of the Alternative rock band, Violent Femmes. Born in Milwaukee, Gano’s father, a Baptist minister with a love of music, exposed his son to a wide array of musical genres, including country and western, show tunes and gospel, all of which later found their way into Gano’s music. As a result of its experimental and wide-ranging variety of sounds and music, Violent Femmes has developed a devoted, cult following.
Gordon’s association with El Taller began, as it has for so many performers, through his attending Spanish classes. Over the course of his Spanish studies, Gordon set the words of a favorite Guatemalan poet to music. This was the beginning of a new direction in his musical trajectory of creating works based on Latin American poetry.
Gordon Gano is being honored with the Chaski award in recognition of his long association with El Taller and for his contribution to promoting the works of Latin American poets to a U.S. audience.
Grupo Los Santos is a quartet of classically-trained American musicians who, through a mixture of jazz with Afro-Cuban and Brazilian overtones, have established themselves as an innovative and improvisational presence in New York City. Formed in 1998 to explore the blending of these traditions, Los Santos have performed in Cuba, throughout the U.S., and have worked and recorded with some of the greats of Cuban music.
The group is made up of Dave Ambrosio, William Bausch, Paul Carlon, Pete Smith and Max Pollak. Percussionist William Bausch was a student at El Taller and was the original tie between the group and El Taller. With the Spanish he learned at El Taller, William went to Cuba where he recorded Cuban drum beats which had previously been unchronicled.
The group has worked extensively with Cuban musicians such as the renowned Cuban composer Juan Pablo Torres. Together with RumbaTap dance pioneer Max Pollak (who was also a student at El Taller), they have collaborated with members of the famed Los Muñequitos de Matanzas, combining jazz tap and Cuban rumba. In November, 2001, Pollak and Los Santos were able to bring their mezcla back to its roots, playing a series of concerts in Havana, Cuba.
Grupo Los Santos have been connected with El Taller since their beginnings: Their first CD was called Noches en El Taller. For many years, the group performed at El Taller weekly, and recently they recorded a working progress CD with Bernardo and Quique Sinesi.
Through their work, Grupo Los Santos has created a bridge between New York jazz and Cuban folk music, for which they will be receiving the Chaski Award.
The Hmong American Writers' Circle (HAWC) was founded in 2004. HAWC serves as a forum to discover and foster creative writing within the Hmong community, a small refugee community of 250,000 in the U.S. HAWC's efforts and achievements have been geared toward the creation of a visible body of Hmong American literature and the establishment of a Hmong literary culture, as prior to the arrival of missionaries, the Hmong culture was rooted in Oral traditions. These efforts recently culminated in the first Hmong American literary anthology "How Do I Begin?", which California Poet Laureate, Juan Felipe Herrera noted as, "one of the finest collections of creative writing in decades."
Still battling the trauma of participating in the United States Secret War Campaign during the Vietnam war, the writers explore exile, religion, war and identity within the Hmong community and from the emerging voices of the generations.
Hudson Valley Sally are longtime collaborators with El Taller, as through their infectious bring of American folk music, new and old, we continue the work to revive the protest songs we grew up with, because they still resonate in America and across the Americas.
Watch the Sallies performance at El Taller to launch 35 Years Taller via livestream, and see photos of the event on Facebook.
Inténtalo Carito is the brother duo of classically trained pianists Juan Andres and Nicolas Ospina. If not for playing at a friends wedding, their infectious humor and vaudevillian timing may have never been unleashed on the world.
For anyone who has taken a Spanish Class at El Taller, they know there is more than one Spanish, and Inténtalo Carito's viral song "Qué dificil es hablar el español" is proof that 6 million people are understanding this more and more every day. While their musical skill and humor is an homage to Les Luthiers, their understanding of Spanish of the Americas is evidence that music ties us across generations and borders.
Jeff Schlanger is a distinctive New York City sculptor and painter who has created public art projects focused on three interrelated subjects: Peace, War and Music.
Jeff is best known for his groundbreaking “MusicWitness” paintings, in which, over the past three decades, he has documented music on canvas at a variety of venues and live performances. His paintings have also graced the covers of many free jazz musicians who play in New York city and worldwide.
In addition to his paintings, Jeff is a sculptor and ceramicist, creating political works of clay. His Estadio Chile, a wall of 300 sculpted faces, memorializes those who were killed by Pinochet during the destruction of Chilean democracy.
Jeff has been a documentarian on canvas of El Taller’s performance from the early days and his collection of ink drawings of concerts at the cultural art center continues to shape the artistic history of the organization.
El Taller is honored to award Jeff with the Chaski Award in recognition of his unique documentation of the artistic and political worlds, for reminding us of the power of artist as a social critic, and for creating an artistic archive of El Taller’s own musical history.
Jim Scott brings a warmth and authenticity that turns any size audience into an intimate gathering. With lyrical melodies, well-crafted words, guitar mastery and humorous surprises, he invites all to get involved with the songs and ideals he raises. Honed through his years with the Paul Winter Consort and his world travels as a soloist, Jim's enchanting manner and conviction moved folk legend Pete Seeger to call him "Some kind of magician."
When Bernardo first heard Jim perform A Song for the Earth, he 'knew that the earth is honored to have him as their voice.'
Watch Jim and friends Rich Siegel and James Durst perform at El Taller via livestream and see photos of the event on Facebook.
Jose Del C walked into El Taller wanting to share his unique style of printing and imprinting with the community, as he understands that through expression and art, we build something beautiful and bring people together.
Truly a master artist, Jose is a muralist, painter, ceramicist, educator and designer. Featured in galleries across the globe, from Tokyo to Panama, from New York to Spain, his work explores music and human struggle through gallery and public art exhibitions. Utilizing a unique engraving process on paper, his work has added depth and color.
His exhibition "Musicians Delight" was created from recycled materials and based upon the live performances at El Taller, for he believes that within the music, humanity finds itself.
Julie Zuckerman is currently the principal of the Castle Bridge School, a highly regarded Pre-K to 2nd Grade program in Washington Heights, and one of our partners in expanding Spanish of the Americas in After School settings in the NYC Public Schools.
Concerned about the ramifications of 'teaching toward a test', Julie was one of the first principals in the public school system to cancel standardized multiple-choice tests for her youngest students and reject the city’s new requirements. Now 12 other schools have followed in Julie’s footsteps and rejected the standardized testing. Castle Bridge reserves up to 10% of its spots for children with a parent in prison, the only school in the city to do so.
Julie began her association with El Taller as a student, and ended up partnering with the organization to create a curriculum for the Castle Bridge School. Through her shared vision with El Taller, the program for the school, which teaches children Spanish through a singular combination of music, art and dance during day and after school instruction to enhance to school dual-language, inclusive setting.
Julie will be receiving the Chaski Award for her visionary leadership in public education and her willingness to work alongside nonprofit organizations to enhance curriculum to children in a public school setting through nontraditional means.
Julio Santillan & Franco Pinna came to El Taller searching for a home away from Boston that brought them back to Tucuman, Argentina. What they found was more than a home, but a place where they could experiment and escape their academic setting in Boston.
Now each are the "elders" with numerous CDs and set the tone for the continual arrival of Berklee's emerging Latin American musicians choosing El Taller as their venue of choice to share their music in NYC.
Julio Santillán is a Barcelona-based composer and guitarist originally from Tucumán, Argentina. His compositions combine elements from his home land folk music, jazz improvisation and classical music. He has studied classical guitar at Instituto Superior de Música (Argentina) under the direction of maestro Pablo González Jasey. He graduated summa cum laude with a dual major in Classical Composition and Contemporary Writing and Production from Berklee College of Music (Boston, USA).
Franco Pinna started his musical career in 1988 in Tucuman, Argentina where he performed and recorded with some of the most distinguished musicians of the country. In January of 1998 Franco moved to Boston to enter the Berklee College of Music where he obtained the "Outstanding Musicianship" scholarship and graduated Magna Cum Laude in 2000 under the Professional Music Diploma program.
Karl Berger came to El Taller searching for an open space that could allow his Improvisers Orchestra to experiment and collaborate. What he found was a home for his 20+ musicians.
Using his "Music Mind" concept, Karl conducts this extraordinary group of improvising cohorts as they explore original and spontaneous themes, melodies from the world's folk traditions and compositions written by such legendary improvisers as Don Cherry, Ornette Coleman, and the trademarks vocalization and poetry of Ingrid Sertso.
He brings the Orchestra together at El Taller through the fundamental belief that through music, people can find a common voice, no matter varying backgrounds.
Larry Harlow is one of the world’s leading salsa musicians. Truly a living legend, he is celebrated for his unique blend of Afro-Cuban and jazz piano music. Known throughout the salsa world as El Judio Maravilloso (The Wonderful Jew), Larry created and popularized the explosive trumpet/trombone sound of salsa bands of the 70s and introduced the sacred bata’ drums of the Yoruba religion in Cuba to secular Afro-Cuban dance music.
Larry was also instrumental in creating a separate category for Latin music for the Grammy Awards, culminating in now 12 different Latin Categories. Mr. Harlow, as a Governor of the NY chapter of NARAS, was responsible for making the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences take notice of the contributions of Latin musicians, which made them establish the first Latin Grammy Award. Fittingly, Larry has been nominated three times for a Grammy. And, in 2008, Larry was presented with a Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
El Taller is honoring Larry with the Chaski Award for his many and long-time contributions to the world of Latin music and for his ongoing relationship and performance on Salsa Nights at El Taller.
Leo Genovese is from the mythical town of El Venado Tuerto in the Argentinian Pampas. A daring instrumentalist and composer, Leo boldly traverses the lesser-known corners of the musical landscape, moving effortlessly between the melodic and chromatic.
Armed with 88 keys, Leo writes and performs music that feeds off of dissonance and unconventional improvisation all under the guise of "jazz" and is willing to do so with the largest collection of musicians possible.
While touring with Esperanza Spalding, and leading the Radio Music Society Ensemble, Leo has developed an eclectic understanding of global music, as well as understands the importance of creating a community to create and push the limits of jazz and the fusion of Latin American and World rhythms.
León Gieco, known as the "Argentinian Bob Dylan," is a folk rock performer and composer, known for intermixing Argentinian folk tunes with politically and socially charged, poetic lyrics, which brought him into direct confrontation with the Argentinian government during the 80s and forced his move to Los Angeles for a year. León's music continues to be popular all over the Spanish-speaking world and in folk, and world music scenes worldwide; he needs only take out his guitar for thousands of people to sing along with him.
In recent years, in addition to his other activist pursuits, León has taken up the cause of disabled performers. In June 2014, a documentary "Mundo Alas" (World Wings) which portrays his collaborations with the disabled, will be screened at the United Nations' Forum on Disability and Development. El Taller will award León with the Chaski, in recognition of his music, his activism and his work promoting the abilities of the disabled.
León has a long and ongoing relationship with El Taller and its founder, Bernardo Palombo. In 1984 Bernardo introduced León to Pete Seeger at a festival in Ecuador. León subsequently invited Pete to perform at a concert in Argentina, and in 1990, León performed, along with Pete and David Byrnes, at a benefit concert on behalf of El Taller. After hearing a group of El Taller students sing one of Bernardo's songs, "Cuida El Agua," León has made it part of his repertory, performing it most recently at a concert in Buenos Aires dedicated to the Greenpeace activists imprisoned in Russia.
Martin De Leon is celebrated throughout Latin America. Due to his passion and voice, Bernardo refers to him as the "Pavarotti of Tango." In the early 1980s, Martin performed at El Taller and help shape the performance aesthetic of El Taller, and then utilized those performances to launch into a global career.
Most recently, he performed with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ecuador. Well known for his multifaceted interpretation of the Tango, he reaches deep within his soul and roots, Martin then incorporates new composers with fresh perspectives while honoring the classics he admires and respects.
Michael Howell walked into El Taller as a student. It was not until world jazz master Torsten de Winkel, who upon seeing Michael walk through the auditorium after Spanish class, immediately fell to his knees, proclaimed Michael a "Jazz God," did we begin to know the rich history created by the fingers of Michael.
Michael is an innovative and skillful guitarist, and was inspired and taught by his father and noted K.C. guitarist Herley Dennis in his youth. Later in his career, he recorded with Bobby Hutcherson, and spent 5 years touring with Dizzy Gillespie, as both a musician and composer. Watch Dizzy and Michael share the stage in this video.
A long-time educator at the Jazz Mobile, he has helped develop a group of musicians incorporating jazz guitar into NYC for generations to come.
Perry Robinson breathes energy and love, by sharing a world of rhythm with his clarinet. From the sparse sounds, Perry creates a symphony. And, as the son of Earl Robinson, understands the importance of community support artistic expression.
Watch Perry, Gerry Drums, Guillermo Cardenas and friends perform, while Jose del C and Jeff Schlanger create live art inspired by the music of El Taller via livestream.
Pete Seeger was more than a musician, but an activist and educator spreading music to far off places. This was never more clear when a seven year old boy from Mendoza, Bernardo Palombo, yes, that Bernardo Palombo, first listened to Pete Seeger's music without understanding much about who he was.
The song was Guantanamera, which Pete would later sing at a benefit for El Taller with David Byrne and Leon Gieco. Through his singing, he informed Bernardo about Jose Marti and a type of music that did not really reach Argentina. To read more about Bernardo's connections with Pete, as well as Pete's ties to the Nueva Cancion movement, please visit Los Archivos del Taller.
Pete reminded us that there is a power in song, and more importantly, the singalong, so that while he was sharing Spanish songs to the north, he was singing English songs to the south, through polkas, and Hush Little Baby. These small acts, allowed much of Latin America to understand the significance of American Folk music, and his songs were sung by Victor Jara, among countless others, in supporting political struggle towards liberation.
Ultimately, Pete grasped the work of El Taller, and how the world must crossover to connect with one another, be it through song, protest, a meal, or hearing the story of others: An act, he and Bernardo shared just before Pete passed away in singing "Deportee", at his Beacon, NY home.
Pete cannot be here to receive his Chaski Award, but his entire life was a testament to the beauty and community that art and song can create. And for this, he receives the award, posthumously.
Reverend Billy & The Stop Shopping Choir have all the accoutrements of a southern revivalist evangelist and choir: the white suit, the teased hair, the voices. But appearances are deceiving as they are anything but that. One part performance artist, one part preacher and all parts entertaining, Reverend Billy heads the Church of Stop Shopping, a “post-religious church” dedicated to activism and anti-consumerism with a 40-person gospel choir, a 5-person band and a worldwide following of apostles.
Born Billy Talen, the son of a Lutheran minister in Minnesota, Reverend Billy is based in New York but preaches worldwide, intent on spreading his particular brand of religion – a combination of anti-consumerism, urban activism and environmentalism. Often hilarious but always heartfelt, the activities of the Reverend and his Choir are dedicated to educating people about commercialism and its insidious effect on our planet and the world we live in.
As with so many histories connected to El Taller, Reverend Billy and Bernardo Palombo, El Taller’s founder, met by chance. Bernardo walked into a Starbucks for a cup of coffee when suddenly, in walked the Reverend accompanied by his motley choir, all of whom who burst into protest song over the company’s lawsuit against Ethiopia for branding its own coffees with names of provinces that Starbucks had trademarked. Through the protest group’s efforts, Ethiopian coffee farmers were allowed to keep the names and demand higher prices for their native coffee products. Inevitably, Reverend Billy and Bernardo became activist associates and friends. Reverend Billy, his wife, and musical arranger for the Choir, Savitri, and many of the choir members became Spanish students of El Taller and the Reverend and Bernardo have performed together on many an occasion.
Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir have frequently been arrested and charged for their activism. It is quite fitting then, that they will be receiving the Chaski award in recognition of that very activism, and in acknowledgement of their seriously entertaining efforts to preserve the planet through the medium of music, theater and parody in the battle against corporate takeover.
Ruben Gonzalez has been singing and playing his songs at El Taller since the 80's, honing his musical and storytelling skills so sharply that Phillip Glass selected him to join him for his orchestra and his anthemic songs create a community through song. Now in celebration of 35 Years Ruben says, "El Taller has given me so much, now we must unite to give back to El Taller and the community they create for artists!"
Watch Ruben and a host of friends, including Bernardo Palombo perform at El Taller via livestream.
See photos of the event.
The Students of El Taller are the heart of El Taller. From the concerts, to the gallery, to the dance classes, without the support and dialogue of our students, none of the beauty or truth of El Taller could have been possible.
You are more than students, for you bring your talents and creativity into our global village. Be you Michael Howell, Dave Soldier, David Byrne , or a second year student at CUNY, each of you making El Taller thrive.
The Villalobos Brothers (Ernesto, Alberto and Luis) were raised on the music of their grandmother, Cristina Vasquez. And though each went around the world study (in the US, Russia and Belgium, repetitively), they continue to honor the roots their grandmother passed to them, and fuse their own energy and style spanning their native Veracruz, while embracing rhythms from around the globe.
The percussionist, vocalist, composer and clinician Valerie Naranjo is known for her pioneering efforts in West African music; she is one of only two non-West Africans to win the gyil (a series of wooden bars played with mallets) competition at the Ghanaian Kobine Festival and the first woman ever allowed, by chiefly decree, to play the instrument publicly at the festival. She has also researched and studied in Botswana, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Morocco, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa, where, in 1994 with Thuli Dumakude, she opened Johannesburg's Civic Theatre to its first post-apartheid audiences in the production Buya Africa.
Valerie holds the percussion chair in the Saturday Night Live house band, performed and arranged the percussion sets for The Lion King and has performed solo on six continents with the Phillip Glass Ensemble, David Byrne, the Paul Winter Consort, Zakir Hussein and others. Named Drum! Magazine’s "World Percussionist of the Year" in 2003 and 2008, and "Mallet Player of the Year" in 2012, she is truly "living evidence that women today can be all they want to be." (Maz Salazar, Latin Beat Magazine).
Valerie is a long-time friend of Bernardo Palombo, El Taller's founder and has performed at El Taller many times over the years. On March 28, 2014, Valerie was the first recipient of El Taller’s Chaski Award for her work in community building through music and for "changing the course of musical history in Africa," through her gifts, she advocates and shifts not only the perception of music, but the future.
A local poet and storyteller born in Puerto Rico, Victor Hernandez was an El Taller neighbor and devotee who quietly helped out at the organization for many years. It was not until one day be began performing one of his verses that El Taller that a poet was in our midst.
In 2000, a group of musicians set Victor's poems to music and that album was chosen as Best Latin Independent Production of the year. Since then, Victor's songs and poems have been recorded by many different bands and musicians. His album, "Alma Rebelde" continues to be a favorited music compilation from El Taller, as it recreates his stanzas accompanied by the "classic" sound of the 30's and 40's found "en la isla del canto".
He is currently writing poetry, studying philosophy, intent on studying the Greek and Latin classics to honor those came before him to continue to explore his writing.
Victor is receiving the Chaski Award in recognition for not only volunteering at El Taller for so long, but for showing us all that the beauty and truth of the artist and poet arises unexpectedly, and from it, ever surprising.
Yolanda Torres is our longest tenured teacher at El Taller. She will admit and deny this simultaneously, a testament to her spirit, as a former nun, community activist and educator from the Dominican Republic and now living in New York.
Students have seen her Salsa, jump on top of a table to demonstrate "arriba" and jump down for "abajo", but rarely hear of her day educating students in NYC public schools and battling slumlords for her community.
In 2000, Yolanda organized a group of Dominican single mothers to take on an abusive landlord in the Bronx. Eventually, she won the rights to the five-story building from the city and together with the other members of her empowered coalition, turned next to nothing into a thriving community. Not satisfied with the victory, she, spearheaded getting computers and internet access for her cooperative under a Federal Connecting Communities program and managed to enhance and improve the building’s livability and the lives of its inhabitants.
Yolanda receives the Chaski Award in honor of her many years of teaching, as well as ensuring that the rights of the immigrant and those living in the community are protected and voices are heard.