Daniel Salazar has been a imposing presence in the cultural life of Connecticut for many years. Not only as the director of the Guitar Society and a frequent performer with several of his musical groups, but particularly, as a founder of the concert series Guitar Under the Stars, (GUS) which he created in 1993. This one-of-a-kind outdoor concert, which found a home at the Riverfront Recapture had the enthusiastic collaboration of members of the Hartford Symphony. It was started more than 20 years ago, became a cultural phenomenon attracting thousands of people.
While Guitar Under the Stars attracted a larger public each year, it was also the only concert of this type presented in Hartford. Under Salazar’s guidance, the audience could listen to orchestral compositions which included both classical, Latin American and Spanish works. The success of this program was expanded when Salazar became the Musical Director for the new and expanded Riverfront Latin World Rhythms Festival.
Born in El Paso, Texas, his Mexican immigrant parents encouraged his love of music. Growing in a bi-cultural environment Salazar grew up appreciating the best of the music which both cultures had to offer. He decided to study music and at the University of Texas where he graduated with a Music Degree. He then continued his studies at the Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford. Once this talented musician was enchanted by Hartford, he made his home here. Those of us who love classical music and admire the talent of Latino artists feel very lucky that Salazar stayed in this area, which, for the most part is lacking of venues to show the talent of Latin musicians playing music other than the popular concerts featuring Salsa and other styles.
This year, Salazar presented Guitar Under the Stars at the University of St Joseph in West Hartford. It was the first time since it started that the concert emigrated to another city. Salazar has also just released a new CD produced in Granada, Spain with the title of ESPAÑA! A new accomplishment I wanted to to share with our readers.
We would like to share the latest news about this extraordinary talent who has contributed so much to the cultural and musical landscape in Connecticut.
IN CONVERSATION WITH: DANIEL SALAZAR
BR: Tell us about your upbringing and background and what prompted your decision to stay in Connecticut?
DS: First, I would like to say that I am very happy to be communicating with the readers of CTLatinoNews.com. Thank you for the opportunity.
I came here to undertake graduate studies in music at the University of Hartford’s Hartt School of Music. I was awarded a scholarship that made it possible for me to relocate from my hometown of El Paso, Texas. Hartt has always been an internationally renowned music conservatory, and being there allowed me to meet people from around the world. I also made very important connections with people from the Greater Hartford community, many who have remained my friends to this day.
BR: When did you decide to become a classical guitarist?
DS: Having a large extended family, our many celebrations and events always included music and dancing. My father loved music, and even though he was not a musician, he collected records of all types. When I was born he predicted that I would be a pianist because he thought my hands were perfect for that. Later, when I was about nine years old, I took piano lessons for a very short time. I think the teacher was not right for me, so I quit. A few years after that, one of my cousins showed me his new guitar, and soon after I was playing electric guitar in a teen rock band with my other cousins. In high school my music teacher invited a classical guitarist to play for our class, and he played a beautiful Spanish piece. I had never heard a guitar played like that before. I was mesmerized and decided then and there that I would learn to play the classical guitar. The rest, as the cliche goes, is history.
BR: Your new recording ESPAÑA! was produced in the majestic city of Granada. Was there a specific reason for that?
DS: Yes, I was in Spain for most of the summer in 2017, and it was a very productive and exciting time. The trip came about through a couple of opportunities. I have musical connections there from other trips I have made. Also, that year I was awarded a professional development grant from a prestigious organization called Fund For Teachers in recognition of my educational work. It was great privilege to be recognized with this honor.
Among my many activities, I was able to collaborate with and record my music with Spanish musicians, including brilliant Flamenco artists. Being totally immersed in Spanish culture and Flamenco with the majestic Alhambra medieval palace in the background was a truly inspirational experience.
BR: How do you choose which compositions to include in a new recording?
DS: It varies depending on the project. For this production, I wanted to take advantage of working with extremely talented Spanish musicians. I chose music that I love and has a distinct Spanish association. One of the selections is my arrangement of the famous “Concierto De Aranjuez” by Joaquin Rodrigo. My vision was to incorporate the fusion of elements found in Andalucia; the Moorish/Arabic influence and the Flamenco component. The new recording uses exotic percussion instruments, flamenco guitars and of course classical guitar. I think that people will like it very much. We also filmed footage for two videos that will accompany the recording, and I’m very excited about that as well.
BR: How many CDs have you recorded by now?
DS: I have three previous Compact Discs, Daniel Salazar, Malagueña and Mosaico. With the progress of technology and all of us spending more time on multiple smart devices, the music industry and the way people listen to music has really changed. With that in mind, my new recording is a Digital Download release. That means that there will be no physical disc, but rather people can purchase a download that will go directly on to their device and playlist. While many of us of a certain age may find this unusual, it really is how many people purchase and listen to music now. And, it is not a complicated process at all.
BR: Is there a place where people can buy them?
DS: All the information for purchasing my music is available on my website: www.danielsalazar.com
BR: You are also the musical director of the Americas Ensemble, in which several international musicians participate? How is that music different from the one you play with the Daniel Salazar Ensemble? What’s the difference?
DS: My large Ensemble includes up to10 players and plays a fusion of Spanish classical guitar with Latin and world rhythms. We also perform with symphony orchestral players on occasions. I love the sound of multiple instruments, and working with this format allows me to explore using many different timbres and colors. However, I also love the sound of the more intimate acoustic setting. The Americas Ensemble is a trio with musicians that come from North and South America, hence the name. The group focuses on classical compositions and traditional folkloric music from the U.S., Mexico, Venezuela, Chile, Argentina and other countries. We use several instruments including guitar, flute, quena, charango, cuatro and cajon. People may recognize some of the instrumental titles we perform; “Alma Llanera,” “El Dia Que Me Quieras,” and “Alfonsina Y El Mar” among many others.
BR: The Riverfront site seemed like such a perfect venue for Guitar Under the Stars. I’m very curious about the decision to leave Hartford, Can you talk about producing the concert in a new venue, difficulties, similarities?
DS: Everyone I talk to about Guitar Under The Stars and the Riverfront always tells me how much they liked the setting by the Connecticut river. It certainly is a magical scene when the sun sets, the music resonates, the river sparkles and the stars come out. For me it’s always been a very inspiring place.
A few years ago several factors came together in an untimely manner. The City of Hartford started to stress under budget difficulties, a new Mayor and administration took over, the City’s cultural office was disbanded and Riverfront Recapture also changed leadership. In short, funding for Guitar Under The Stars was just not obtainable. Last year, we were able to include the event as part of Hartford’s Envisionfest celebration. It was a great success and I even rebranded it “Guitar Under The Arts” since we performed under the magnificent Stegosaurus sculpture in downtown Hartford. In 2017 Envision also succumbed to the harsh budget climate and was cancelled. Fortunately, one of our great supporters, The Roberts Foundation teamed up with The University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford and we successfully produced a fabulous event there in September.
BR: How was the concert funded?
DS: One of the things that makes me proud of Guitar Under The Stars is that it has always been free and open to anyone. It has always been solely supported by grants, sponsors, businesses and individual contributors. It is a true community effort that brings together music lovers from around the region, and is a real symbol of how people value maintaining a vibrant cultural climate in our community. This past year, our main sponsors were The University of Saint Joseph and The Roberts Foundation, with additional help from The Musicians Performance Trust Fund. This allowed us to maintain the high quality of the production and host close to 2,000 people at the venue.
2018 will mark the 25th Anniversary of Guitar Under The Stars. We are planning a great celebration and will be inviting the community to participate in and support this grand production.
BR: Guitar Under the Stars has been such an integral part of the cultural life in Connecticut and has attracted thousands of people, did you have to make many adjustments to present the concert in a new venue?
DS: I don’t believe it’s good to drastically change something that people really like. My focus for GUS has always been to present a high quality event with outstanding musicians and a diverse repertoire of music that moves the listener in different ways. This year my ensemble consisted of musicians from the U.S., Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Chile and a special guest Flamenco vocalist from Sevilla, Spain. Additionally, we were joined by outstanding players from the Hartford Symphony Orchestra.
The new location worked out extremely well, the arrangements for the public were very comfortable and the site was beautifully lit with gorgeous colors and even stars projected unto the buildings! People had a great time, clamoring for two encores and there was even spontaneous dancing in front of the stage by the end of the program.
Overall, it was a very successful event and was I very happy with the new venue. People can see video clips of the event on my website.
BR: What’s your next project?
DS: I have several things coming up, and I invite your readers to join me for Romance de la Guitarra. I’ll be playing both Flamenco and Tangos. The idea is to celebrate Valentine’s Day. I’ll be performing with an ensemble of international musicians, guest vocalists, and dancers and the program includes music from Spain and Latin America It will take place in Bruyette Athenaeum, at the Autorino Center, University of Saint Joseph. This event February 14, starts at 8:00pm and is expected to sell out, so get your tickets early! http://www.usj.edu/arts/performing-arts/our-current-season/ And of course, my new recording ESPAÑA will be available for purchase.
Tickets for this concert range from $30 and $25, for the general public, $20 for Seniors, USJ Alumni, USJ Faculty/Staff and Let’s Go Arts Members: $20, and $15 for Autorino Members and Students (Non-USJ) with valid ID: $15. Tickets can be purchased at the Frances Driscoll Box Office: 860.231.5555 or online at tickets.usj.edu.
Bessy: It’s been a pleasure to share my information with the readers of CTLatinoNews.com. Thank you for keeping our community informed and connected. Keep up the good work!
Thank You Daniel. Que sigan los éxitos.