New Music Director at SU

VPA Names Pianist, Scholar Milton Laufer New Setnor School of Music Director
by Erica Blust

The College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) has announced that Milton Rubén Laufer, a pianist and scholar and current director of Western Carolina University’s School of Music, has been named director of the Rose, Jules R. and Stanford S. Setnor School of Music, effective July 1.

Laufer will be responsible for the Setnor School of Music’s creative, academic and strategic leadership, and he will provide public advocacy for the school at the University, regional and national levels. He will also serve as an associate professor of music.
Laufer succeeds Martha Sutter, who will return to the faculty following a one-year research leave.

“I am delighted to welcome Dr. Laufer to Syracuse University, the college and the Setnor School,” says VPA Dean Michael S. Tick. “Our hard-working search committee, led by Ralph Zito, chair and professor of our Department of Drama, commended him for being a skilled and dedicated musician as well as an accomplished entrepreneurial leader in music education, arts consulting and arts advocacy. I look forward to collaborating with him on his vision for the Setnor School.”

“I am so honored to have been chosen to serve this remarkable institution,” says Laufer. “Music has been woven into the fabric of Syracuse University for 142 years. I endeavor to honor this great legacy while working alongside the extraordinary faculty, staff and talented students of the Setnor School of Music toward a bright and prosperous future.”
A Chicago native of Puerto Rican and Cuban parents, Laufer began playing the piano at three years of age, and his training includes studies at the Music Institute of Chicago, the Gnessin Institute, the Eastman School of Music, the University of Michigan (B.M.) and Rice University (M.M., D.M.A.).

Laufer has delighted audiences on four continents in prestigious venues from Lincoln Center to Tchaikowsky Hall. A versatile artist, he has shared the stage with artists ranging from Natalie Cole to Guerassim Voronkov. His appearances on Spanish-speaking television and radio have been aired throughout Europe, South America, Central America and the Caribbean.

Laufer is recognized internationally as a leading interpreter and scholar of Spanish piano music. His editions of Isaac Albéniz’s Three Improvisations for Piano and “La Vega” are published by G. Henle Verlag of Munich and available worldwide. Currently he is writing the book “The Pianist’s Guide to the Repertoire of Spain.”

In addition, he has two recording projects planned: an album featuring piano and vocal works by Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona and recording of Latin works for cello and piano with Canadian cellist Nigel Boehm. His recording credits include albums on the Naxos, Zenph Sound Innovations, Bis Records and Beauport Classics record labels.

As an educator, Laufer is guided by the principle that students must be adaptable to the changing vocational landscape that awaits them. They must not only be skilled, expressive technicians, but also entrepreneurs and convincing communicators who understand the value of their art as a commodity in the marketplace and its power as a force for change within their community.

Laufer is a charter trustee and lifetime member of the Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame and an active voting member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (Grammys) and Latin Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (Latin Grammys)

Everson Museum exhibits the art of Juan Cruz

by Ricardo Loubriel

Juan Cruz is a Puerto Rican artist who at the early age of five was forced to leave the island and move to New York City, where his journey as an artist took form. Life situations and setbacks sparked the flame of creativity.

Cruz is 77 years old and a resident of Syracuse NY since 1975. He has been invited by the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse to present a retrospective exhibit that includes works from 1960 to the present. The show titled Juan Cruz: A Retrospective, opens on May 4 at 10am, at the Everson Museum, 401 Harrison St. Syracuse, NY 13202. The show will remain on view through August 4th, 2019.

In recent days, we had a chance to interview the artist, who has contributed so much in the fields of painting, sculpture, and the education of our youth in the arts. This is an excerpt of our conversation.

RL: What was the reason for your family to move out from Puerto Rico?
JC: Necessity and lack of resources.

RL: At what age did you first hold a brush?
JC: I was around 20 years old, but even as a five year old, ever since I can remember I spent my time drawing with pencils. This exhibition at the Everson will include one of my first paintings, a portrait of a young girl. That was in the 1960s.

RL: Did your parents in any way influence your career as an artist?
JC: I think about that and a lot. We were a poor family. I met my father when I was 12-years-old. My mom was a seamstress and she had that creative vision for drawing and designing dresses.

RL: Do you feel that the island of Puerto Rico influence your work?
JC: I do not know. My first influences were when I decided that art was more than painting pretty things, like flowers. I felt there had to be something more profound. I used to paint what I saw, very realistic. At that time I was struggling to make money. But when I started to analyze what I was doing, I opened my eyes realizing that art is not painting everything that you see. My work evolved in an attempt to reflect my experiences and my moods.

RL: Do you have a memory or anecdote that continually comes back to mind in relation to your art?
JC: I always liked to draw; I never had an interest in baseball or other sports. The truth is that all children are creators. The first thing they do is draw on walls, on the floor or the stove. We are all artists, but there comes a time when we take other interests or shift directions. For me, art comes from another planet. I am centered on personal experiences and social problems such as abuse, in all its manifestations.

RL: What does your art express, or what is the primary focus in relation with your work?
JC: My experiences, what I have lived through. Art for me is like music. Sometimes it grabs you and it speaks to your spirit. It pulls something out of us that provokes a certain connection. It is different for each person. The same happens with painting.

RL: How do you feel about this upcoming exhibition at the Everson Museum?
JC: Last New Year’s Eve, I was wondering what would happen to me this year. I was sick, alone, far from my family, broke and very cold. I read in a horoscope, “This year, something will open up for you.” I thought to myself, “There’s no other way around it!” One week later I got an invitation from the Everson to organize a show.

RL: Is there anything else you would like to say?
JC: Yes, art is therapy. I would like to send a message to our youth and tell them to think about what they are doing. Life in street gangs hit me hard when I was 17 years old, and landed me in prison without even speaking English. I did not know to read or write. I learned
to read, write and paint in prison. Not knowing English was a problem and one of the reasons why I would not advocate in my own defense. I learned that it is important to think before taking any action, rather than act without thinking. Any decision made thoughtlessly can change your life in a second. I spent 16 and a half years in prison, for a moment’s action that I made without thinking. That can take you to jail or to your grave. I want to advise our youth and tell them that it is never too late; that education is super important and it is what will pull you out of many miseries. It is important to be patient, think about what you do and work hard to move ahead. I was able to overcome that crisis in my life. I held on to my art. It saved me. Many do not have that life support. I want to tell our young people to not waste time, to get an education, seek understanding and do not let anyone pressure you to act without thinking. Art is therapy

Young Art Exhibit at La Casita

By Ricardo Loubriel

Boys and girls from our community present their new collection of paintings and drawings at the Young Art 2019 exhibition at La Casita Cultural Center. The opening reception will take place on Saturday, April 27 from 1:00pm to 3:00pm. This event is free and open to the community. The exhibit will remain on view through June 14.

All the works were produced during the workshops of El Punto Art Studio last February. Two artists from our own community who exhibited their own art in the Cuba exhibition this year, Sanlly and Dalgis Viera, facilitated the workshops that produced this colorful art installation.

In addition to the exhibit, the young talents in La Casita’s music programs will perform live on the piano, violin and guitar as part of the opening celebration. Syracuse University students from the Setnor School of Music were the music instructors this year: Aleksandre Roderick-Lorenz (violin), Mia Tsai (piano) and Sebastian Escribano (guitar).


The young authors of La Casita’s Dual Language Reading Circles, will also be featured at this event. The program will release a new storybook in English and Spanish with an original story by the participants. This is the fourth edition produced by the program, edited by Margot Clark and Tere Paniagua. Olivia Flores, a Political Sciences sophomore at S.U., coordinated and facilitated the reading workshops.

All programs in arts, music and language arts education involve the participation of children from the local Latino communities locally and near Syracuse. The programs are offered at no cost to participants. During the school year, workshops include drawing and painting, bomba and plena dance and drumming, piano, violin, guitar and activities that combine the arts and sciences, facilitated by Ashley Jimenez and her group of engineering students from S.U.

Tere Paniagua, Executive Director of Cultural Engagement for the Hispanic Community, an SU initiative, is in charge of managing La Casita.
“We are extremely proud of our youth’s accomplishments and deeply grateful for the commitment of our partners and sponsors on and off the Syracuse University campus,” said Paniagua. “The dedication and contribution of SU students volunteering in support of our programs and our children is invaluable and extremely positive.”


The Young Art exhibit is a project of La Casita Cultural Center in collaboration with the Point of Contact Gallery, the Spanish Action League, and the Partners in Learning Manos pre-school program. Support for these program comes from the College of Arts & Sciences at Syracuse University, Mercy Works, Molina Healthcare and Wegmans. This program is supported by funding from the New York State Council of the Arts (NYSCA).

Your Stories, Your Library

La Casita’s Bilingual Library is a vital resource for the education programs at the Center. Your Stories, Your Library is a new campaign to raise awareness and support from the community for the work of the library. The bilingual library offers an interactive, program-driven space where students, researchers and community members of all ages learn about U.S. Latino and Latin American literatures and cultures. To support this initiative, please contact La Casita: Tel. 315-443-2151 or email: lacasita@syr.edu.

La Casita is located at 109 Otisco St. Syracuse, NY 13204.

Young Art Exhibit Photo Descriptions

Young Art Exhibit_01 -“Artist Sanlly Viera working with two children at the El Punto Art Studio”
Young Art Exhibit_02 – “Two children working on artwork during the El Punto Art Studio”
Young Art Exhibit_03 – “Young girl working on artwork during the El Punto Art Studio”
Young Art Exhibit_04 – “Young girl and her artwork at the El Punto Art Studio”
Young Art Exhibit_05 – “Painting made by students in the El Punto Art Studio”
Young Art Exhibit_06 -“Painting made by students in the El Punto Art Studio”

From Havana to Spain with Joaquin Rodrigo

by Ana Maria Ruimonte

There wasn’t a green finch; I couldn’t see the waterbird, nor the pine forest nor the Castilian fields of grain… but, among the palms and the flourishing trees I saw a little hummingbird flying from flower to flower and moving its wings so fast. I couldn’t hear his singing, but the flute of Zorimé sounded to me like a green finch in the heart of Havana.

The guitar of Luis transported me from the leafy and green parks of Vedado to the gardens of the Palace of Aranjuez, and its fountains with sculptures of the 17th century; and with the clarinet of Monterrey and the flute of Alberto, I believed I had found myself suddenly on the outskirts of a little Castilian town in Valladolid, walking along the Duero River…

With the guitar of Galy, I imagined myself to be in a house with a patio, and in the patio a water well, while I was waiting for my love. When he finally arrived, about the third madrigal, I asked him where he had been, and he responded that he had been walking in the trees along the river…

I could see through the music how a shepherd took his flock of sheep around the walled castle of Torrelobatón, that had high towers of stone and surrounding it a deep mote, which I imagined it had been full of water with crocodiles and other dangerous animals in a time in the past, but now, it was dry for lack of rain…

With the piano of Huberal, I mysteriously appeared in the pine forest of Simancas, and I could hear the cuckoo bird which was hiding among the pines… Where are you, cuckoo? Where are you? And going musically hand in hand with Rodrigo toward eastern Spain, we arrived at a small town on the coast in Valencia. We could see high and far away an Arabic tower, that was lone, lost and abandoned nowadays, but I imagined a Moor there, looking out for the arrival of an invading boat, a long time ago…

But we really were in Centro Havana… Children running and playing in the wide streets among the broken cobblestones, a knife-sharpening-man and the ice cream-man passing while I was singing, and the fan overhead essential for that intense tropical heat… The ceiling of the house of Huberal is very high and there are big windows to the street, too, and his piano is gigantic, full of memories topped with awards and flowers, and hanging on the wall medals and certificates for his life dedicated to music in Cuba… The juices of tamarind and guava, the garapiña he made himself, and the yoghurt refreshed us and were really delicious… No better place and no better taste than there!

And between juices and fans, and tropical gardens, Joaquín Rodrigo in the countryside of Castilia and Valencia appeared and disappeared as the cuckoo bird in the pine trees on the mountains of Avila…

With Alejandro’s cello I felt like I was in an inn in La Mancha on a dark night, and I thought I saw don Alonso Quijada in his horse – he was then known as the caballero Don Quixote… And several minutes later hearing the piano of Mayté I found myself in a street in Madrid in a Spring afternoon, and the street was full of people with happy faces and lit by a yellow-orange light. But, it was a surprise when singing the Sephardic songs with odd scales full of accidentals and completely different intervals that captured our attention.

There, in Havana, how could it be possible that those scores by Joaquín Rodrigo could take us to so many diverse parts of beautiful Spain and to nostalgic times with friendly people? Only by means of his music: The songs of Joaquín Rodrigo.

Ana María Ruimonte, Spanish-American soprano, collaborates with the best Cuban musicians in the new CD “Con Rodrigo en Cuba” to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of Rodrigo’s death. Released by Owlsong and available on CD Baby, and Spotify, iTunes, Amazon and most other platforms. www.owlsong.com, www.ruimonte.us.

The photos of the group of musicians and the CD face are courtesy of Jorge Cruz.
The photos of El Maestro and Ana Maria in the beach are courtesy of Pedro Abascal

Alcohol Drinking and Gambling

by Miguel Balbuena

“Shape of You” took the world by storm in January 2017. It went on to win the title of best selling song worldwide that year and the next one it garnered the Grammy Award for Best Pop Solo Performance, just to mention two of the accolades that it has collected.

I attribute the success of this tune, by English artist Ed Sheenan, both to its music and to its lyrics. In short, its music is infused with a Caribbean vibe stemming from a marimba-driven percussion; its lyrics have appealing lines such as: “the bar is where I go / Me and my friends at the table doing shots / Drinking fast and then we talk slow.”

These lines may be construed by some as glamorizing, glorifying, romanticizing and mythologizing the consumption of drinks containing ethyl alcohol, most commonly known as ethanol by chemists. Drinking alcohol has long been the favorite pastime of some people. So has gambling (defined as playing a game of chance for something valuable) with dice. When you integrate both leisure activities you get the ultimate vicious over-the-top game of GORL, which links the likelihood of drinking alcohol to the outcome of tossing a die. GORL is not well known in the United States. It is far more popular in Latin American countries.

GORL is a game of chance in which the letter G means “guzzle,” the letter O means “oblige,” the letter R means “right” and the letter L means “left.” Miguel Rodriguez, a classmate at the Pontifical Catholic University, introduced me to this game back in the day. He went by the moniker of Miguelon. At his favorite bar, called “Life Is Worth Nothing,” he was patient enough to explain GORL’s basic requirements and rules to me.

The requirements are:

1) Having a table and chairs (optional, if sitting on the floor is very uncomfortable);
2) Having a die;
3) Having a dice roller cup (optional);
4) Having an endless supply of beer (preferably ice cold);
5) Having a minimum of three players (or victims, if you will), without any maximum, and;
6) Having a full glass of beer of at least 8 ounces in front for each player at the beginning of the game, glass that would be refilled to the top again every time it is emptied.

The players sit around a table and roll a die. Once thrown, the six options assigned to its numbers are:

∗ If it falls one: The player who tossed the die guzzles his glass of beer to the bottom.
∗ If it falls two: Another player (player obliged), chosen on the whim of the player who tossed the die,
guzzles his glass of beer to the bottom.
∗ If it falls three: The player to the right of the player who tossed the die guzzles his glass of beer to the
bottom.
∗ If it falls four: The player to the left of the player who tossed the die guzzles his glass of beer to the
bottom.
∗ If it falls five: All the players guzzle their glasses of beer to the bottom, excluding the player who tossed
the dice.
∗ If it falls six: All the players guzzle their glasses of beer to the bottom, including the player who tossed
the dice.

Miguelon concluded his GORL master class by indicating that the game winner would be the last player still standing after the rest had been knocked unconscious by the binge-drinking. But before you and your best buddies rush to buy kegs and other beer paraphernalia to engage in GORL, please bear in mind that this could be fatal due to the systemic consequences of having a high blood alcohol content (BAC).

A case in point is that of Timothy Piazza, an engineering student at Pennsylvania State University who last year engaged in another drinking game, called the Gauntlet, which first led to his getting a BAC of approximately 0.40 percent and then to his death. We have to take into account that all 50 states of the union have set a BAC 0.08 percent as their legal limit for driving while intoxicated (DWI). Fraternity brothers required Piazza to participate in the Gauntlet as part of his pledge process to said fraternity.

About the author: Miguel Balbuena is a writer in the academic, scientific, journalistic and literary fields
(in the fiction and non-fiction genres).

United by the Music

United by the Music
by Félix Martínez Marrero

What is trova and how did it become part of typical Puerto Rican music? When is it heard? The trova is the poetic composition composed to be sung. It is the typical music of our ancestry. The trova is significant as a cultural expression. It is heard all year, although some relate it mostly to the Christmas season.

Like most Puerto Ricans who emigrate to the United States in search of a prosperous future for their families, 48 years ago, my parents and their 11 children did the same. One of those children was me. Although I came to Rochester as a young man, I have never stopped longing for my beautiful island, our culture and the neighborhood where I was born. That’s how music became my refuge, becoming the consolation of longing for the soil where I was born. From here came my dream of one day to record a CD of typical music. The years went by and I continued to be involved in music with Pedro Núñez, the Maso Rivera of Rochester who may rest in peace and Marcos Santiago, among others. Even if the temperature was below zero, I did not miss a “parranda”.

Six years ago I started trying to make my dream come true, but for one reason or another I could not achieve it. One day, talking with my wife Margarita, I decided to start communicating with friends who are involved in the music to see if I could achieved my purpose. I spoke with my friend Eliú De Jesús in Florida, who put me in touch with Josean Feliberty Colon in Puerto Rico and I from Rochester, NY, how would we achieve this get-together? It was this way that JFC Home Studio in Ciales, PR, Freddygeezstudio in Rochester, NY, and EDR Studios in Groveland, FL, joined by the music and started my long-awaited project. We started to decide which topics we would include: seises, aguinaldos, trullas… The recordings began in three different studios, “UNITED BY THE MUSIC”. Everything was ready with plans to go on the market in October 2017 and Hurricane María hit PR. It was necessary to postpone the release of the CD.

Originally the CD included eight songs. During the wait and hearing about the suffering of our Puerto Rican brothers, we were inspired by the last song which became the number one on the CD “Puerto Rico Rise Up” (Puerto Rico se Levanta in Spanish). Now the CD contains nine songs with five styles of six, three aguinaldos and a trulla. Each one with an original message of nostalgia for the country, a love story, a biblical message, a cultural controversy, a tribute to Don Pedro Núñez, among others. By obtaining this CD, you will join us, through music, to promote our cultural heritage and although far from the Puerto Rican soil, we will always carry it proudly in our hearts.

Artistic Father of the Cuban Musicians

Hubert De Blanck: Artistic Father of the Cuban Musicians
by Ana María Ruimonte, www.ruimonte.us

While I was in Havana in June, the one and only maestro Huberal Herrera invited me to attend a beautiful concert titled “Spanish Cuban Romantic Music from the 19th Century” at the “Palacio de los Matrimonios” (Marriage Palace in English), on Sunday, June 24th at 11 am.

The pianists Lisa María Blanco and Yanner Rascón played delightful compositions by Cecilia Arizti Sobrino and Nicolás Ruíz Espadero, and the actress Natasha Díaz read poems by Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda and José Martí. But what excited me most was what followed: The performance by the maestro Huberal Herrera who played The Beautiful Cubana by José White and also five great compositions by Hubert de Blanck: “Study in e minor”, “Over the tomb of Ma-ceo”, “Viennese Waltz”, “Toccata in A minor” and “Variations on the Hymn of Bayamés”.

These pieces were characterized by a progression of slow and fast rhythms; ascending and descending arpeggios across the entire eight octaves of the piano; deeply profound, pedal tones reflecting the solemn sections; sweet waltz rhythms; influences of Bach and Wagner, contrapuntal fugues with variations and cannon; agile strumming, staccato, trills and theatrical expressivity. The pieces demonstrated maestro Herrera’s range of expression and facility in this gorgeous collection of pieces by the composer.

The story of Hubert de Blank exhilarates me. When he was young, Belgium’s King Leopold the Second awarded de Blanck a grant to study music wherever he decided. Then de Blank traveled to Colonia in Germany. There he met a Brazilian violinist, Eugene -Maurice Dengremont and they create a duo together. They toured throughout Europe and in the Americas they performed in Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires and New York. Hubert de Blanck gained a position as professor of piano at the College of Music in New York; where he met the Cuban Ana María García Menocal and they married there in 1881. They went to Havana for Christmas in 1882. Just one year later, the couple moved to live in Havana. They had 5 sons, the oldest named Guillermo. When Ana María died, de Blanck married Pilar Martín and they had 3 more children. Hubert de Blanck incorporated the music and rhythms of Cuban into his musical life. He obtained Cuban citizenship and in 1885 founded Cuba’s first Conservatory of Music, which to this day bears his name and continues to train the best young Cuban musicians. Eventually, de Blanck was forced into exile as a result of his politics, particularly his pro-independence activism. He composed many piano pieces, and also the opera “Patria” (Homeland). He is buried in the Colon cemetery in Havana.

Maestro Huberal Herrera is the most recognized interpreter of the music of Hubert de Blanck. Indeed Maestro Herrera owns an extensive collection of his compositions, some otherwise unavailable, given to him by de Blanck’s son Guillermo Menocal, who was Herrera’s teacher.

Such an exceptional composer and magnificent interpreter!

Ana María Díaz was born in Madrid and obtained her Master of Arts in voice with the specialty of Opera at the Escuela Superior de Canto in Madrid. Presently, she lives in Philadelphia. Opera singer and writer of reviews of opera and other artistic activities, she is President of Owlsong Productions, Inc. Ana María Díaz belongs to the duo Soprano Meets Contrabass with her husband Alan Lewine, performing original arrangements of arias and songs for soprano and jazz contrabass with flamenco influences in the recital “800 years of music in less than 2 hours”. Ana María Díaz is a member of Opera America in New York, UNIMA-USA, Early Music America and Women in the Music.

Ana María Díaz has written and produced a bilingual musical Baroque theatrical performance titled “Burn, Heart, Burn” as a commemoration of the artists from 17th Century Spain and America with puppets using elaborate period costumes, songs and brief stories. The songs are recorded in her CD “Arded, Corazón, Arded”. Ana María been collaborating with “CNY Latino” Newspaper with her column titled “Burn, Heart, Burn” since the beginning of 2015.