Taking the Lead with Daniel Salazar Jr.

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By Karen Cortés
Hartford guitarist Daniel Salazar Jr. grew up in El Paso, Texas, in close proximity to his large, extended – and musical – family that lived on both sides of the Texas/Mexico border. “I had a very bi-cultural upbringing,” says Salazar. “There was always music and dancing. The traditional music stuck with me.”
He completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Texas, and studied guitar in Spain. The traditional music of his youth is being shared with a new generation of guitarists at the University of Connecticut and the Greater Hartford Academy for the Arts, where Salazar serves on the faculty.
Graduate studies at the Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford brought Salazar to Hartford in 1982, and he never left. “Connecticut was a good base for what I was doing. It’s a melting pot of cultures,” he says.
In 1991, he and a group of friends hosted the first of several free concerts featuring undergraduate and graduate students at Hartford’s Our Lady of Sorrows Church. After just two years, the concerts outgrew the space at OLS, moved outdoors, and evolved into what is today Guitar Under the Stars, an annual cultural event that attracts some 5000 visitors to Hartford’s Riverside Park.
This year’s Sept. 8 Guitar Under the Stars represents a collaboration of more than 60 local and international musicians performing jazz, acoustic, classical and flamenco guitar in the afternoon, and continues into the evening with a special performance with Salazar accompanied by the Hartford Symphony Orchestra. While Guitar Under the Stars has grown to its current size, it remains free to the public.
“We live in a culturally rich city. There are so many live, free events. It is important for people to understand that costs are incurred and support the cultural organizations behind the music.” On July 27, Salazar and friends, will host No Strings: A Fundraiser for Guitar Under the Stars at The Dirt Salon on Bartholomew Street in Hartford’s Parkville neighborhood.
Salazar received the prestigious 2011 Public Service Award from The State of Connecticut for his artistic contributions, was featured in a long running NBC Television segment for Hispanic Heritage Month and is also a recipient of the Latino de Oro Award, which recognizes outstanding musical achievement. He has held the distinguished title of United States Artistic Ambassador, and served as artistic director of the Connecticut Guitar Society.
A limited number of tickets for No Strings: A Fundraiser for Guitar Under the Stars are still available online.
Photo by Steve Laschever