Nachito Herrera plays Cuban Jazz in Celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month
September 23, 2021
September 15 through October 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month in the United States. In celebration, The Gilmore is hosting community concerts in Kalamazoo and Battle Creek featuring pianist Nachito Herrera playing Cuban Jazz. We interviewed the artist about himself—learn more below and stay until the end to learn about three incredible organizations in Kalamazoo and Battle Creek that are putting on events this month.
You have been performing since you were 12, when you debuted with the Havana Symphony Orchestra. What drew you to the piano originally?
Nachito Herrera: I was born into a musical family. My father was a piano player and used to rehearse with his big band in the garage of our house. My mother also took piano lessons for seven years and she had a great musical ear. Cuba is a very musical country and I had the opportunity to study at different music conservatories; I got my PhD in Piano and Orchestra Conducting after 16 years of studies.
How would you describe Cuban Jazz for someone who’s never heard it before?
NH: The word ‘Cuban Jazz’ is exactly what it says it is. It is the combination of what we know as pure jazz with original harmonies and improvisations with the syncopation (delaying notes and not always playing on the down beat) of Cuban music style, and also incorporating well-known piano montunos.
We’re excited to have you perform in both Kalamazoo and Battle Creek. Is there anything you’re looking forward to doing while you’re in Michigan?
NH: Kalamazoo and Battle Creek are places I have had the privilege and honor of playing before during the Gilmore Piano Festival and I have met wonderful people there. It will be great to perform for a community I’ve played in before. I always get great support there and it will be great to get together with people I haven’t seen for a long time because of this world pandemic. I’m hoping it is not the last time I’ll be back.
Covid-19 has changed all of our lives tremendously over the past year. Have you learned anything new or about yourself during this time?
NH: I am a Covid-19 survivor. On March 28, 2020, I was admitted at Saint John’s Hospital and then moved to the University of Minnesota Hospital where doctors gave the bad news to my wife that I had just three hours of life left. I was in a coma for 14 days and finally on Easter I opened my eyes. I had no muscular control to even play simple tunes. It has been a long journey of recovery but today, thanks to God, my family, my personal team of professional doctors, and all the prayers, I am back to play for all my friends and all the people who have been supporting my professional life. Music has been one of the most important things in my therapy.
NH: I learned again the value of family, the value of my friends. the value of my music, and how much I have left to do before I die. I kept thinking there is a lot to do yet and I am ready to do it.
Both events are outside and free admission. Please bring a lawn chair or blanket, and help everyone stay safe by following current state and local Covid-19 Safety Protocols. Friday’s concert at Bronson Park will also be livestreamed. To learn more about the Kalamazoo concert, and access the online event, click here. To learn more about the Battle Creek concert, click here.
Learn more from our partners, three incredible community organizations supporting the Hispanic and LatinX communities in Kalamazoo and Battle Creek!
Battle Creek Latin American Heritage Initiative: BCLAHI is a group of volunteers from the Battle Creek community that for six years has celebrated National Hispanic Heritage Month through events that enhance and recognize the traditions and culture of the Latinx community, all thanks to sponsors who support BCLAHI. BCLAHI has partnered with different organizations such as the Battle Creek Art Center, The Gilmore, and the Willard Library in Battle Creek. We have brought in exhibitions of Latin American art, Latin American artists such as cartoonist Ricardo Liniers, bandoneonist Hector Del Curto and Latin American folkloric shows such as tango, flamenco, salsa, etc. For the past three years, “Nuestra Herencia” scholarship has been established for Latinx students from Battle Creek area schools who wish to continue their higher education. We hope to continue for many more years working and counting on the collaboration of both volunteers and organizations to continue showing and encouraging our Latino community how proud we should be of who we are and of our roots. As Latino activist and actor Edward James Olmos says, “I want to show how strong I am from my roots.”
Learn more about BCLAHI here.
El Concilio and M.I. Gente Radio: El Concilio is a non-profit, community-focused organization that seeks to help Latino residents support their families and contribute to society in Kalamazoo. Our radio station, M.I. Gente Radio, was created to inform and entertain the Spanish-speaking public. Our purpose is to reach the ears of each person and to inform them of national and international events and to help these people appreciate their cultural significance in the region. We are looking forward to continuing growing as an organization in order to help more people in our LatinX community and see more people benefit from our work.
Learn more about El Concilio and M.I. Gente Radio here.
Voces: We here at Voces primarily serve the LatinX community in and around the Battle Creek area. We offer interpreter and translation services through our Language Access Program, after-school educational programming for K-12 students and ESL for adults, and provide assistance, advocacy and referrals through our Community Connections Program. We want to expose our Battle Creek community to the many beautiful Hispanic countries. We look forward to seeing an engaged community during Hispanic Heritage Month and playing our part in continuing to build a safe and welcoming greater Battle Creek for all.
Learn more about Voces here.