Andrés Salguero, who won the Latin GRAMMY for Best Latino Children’s Album in November, presented his highly spirited bilingual songfest “Uno Dos Tres Andrés!” at New Hampshire Estates Elementary School (NHE) in Silver Spring on Dec. 22. Head Start, pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classes attended his first show, first- and second-graders, the latter.
Facilitated and funded by Carpe Diem Arts’ Jump Start with the Arts! program, the performances were “a measure of support for the children of families displaced by the Flower Branch Apartments explosion,” said Michelle Moser, the Silver Spring-based nonprofit’s associate director and “right-hand woman” to founder Busy Graham.
A Family Fun Night Out concert series at the El Golfo Restaurant supported the concerts. The money was “specifically earmarked for arts enrichment activities in local low-income early learning centers–that is, Head Start classes,” Moser said. This was Jump Start’s first show at NHE.
Salguero’s “bilingual show is a great fit for the school’s large ELL (English Language Learner) population, and we wanted to celebrate diversity at the school,” Moser explained, noting that his “new album, ‘Arriba Abajo,’ caters to a preschool-early learner audience.” Salguero had performed at NHE “a few years back,” she said, and “performed for us at Rolling Terrace Elementary School last April.”
Beyond Salguero’s appropriateness for the school’s population, Moser said the plight of the displaced families touched the Reston, Va.-based musician. “Ever since Andrés learned about the tragedy, he has gone out of his way to help us make this happen. Even though he is a rising national and international star, he is committed to performing in area schools,” she said, noting that the musician donated copies of his two albums to the school for use in the classrooms.
Because of his own “musicians at heart” parents, Salguero knows how young children can benefit from music. “My dad has been playing the guitar since he was a teenager, and my mom is always singing or humming a tune,” he said. “When my brother and I were about 4 and 6 years old, growing up in Bogotá (Colombia), our parents enrolled us in a children’s music program, and that gave us wonderful exposure to music–singing, dancing, playing the recorder and performing.”
When he was a teenager, Salguero realized he wanted to be a musician, but his choice of genre was fluid. “My dreams changed over time. In the beginning, I dreamt of being a great classical music soloist. Then, when I started writing songs, I dreamt of being a rock star. I am so lucky because now I live my dream, being a rock star for the little ones!”
Despite his earning an undergraduate degree from Bogotá’s Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, a master’s degree in clarinet performance from University of Arkansas and a doctorate in music from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, he ended up “pivoting” from classical music. “One day, when I was living in Kansas City during graduate school, I was invited to sub in a friend’s band for a kids’ concert,” he recalled. “I was hooked! This gave me an opportunity to be totally silly and creative, and I loved the interaction with the audience. I decided to start my own kids’ music project, combining music, language and cultural exploration, and 123 Andrés was born!”
Salguero has found that “kids and families are the most fun audience.” He has made that judgement on solid ground: “I’ve performed in all kinds of bands–from symphonies and operas, to punk, to Latin jazz and salsa, and many others.”
The impact he can make on young audiences is key. “With children, you can see the positive effect of your music because they express their feelings and they absorb your message,” he said. “A mom recently told me her daughter started feeling proud of speaking Spanish thanks to our music. That means the world to us.” By “us” he refers to his wife, Christina, who often performs with him.
He and Christina, he said, “hear stories from families all the time that children go home after concerts and re-enact the whole concert at home! Some families even have set up stages at home for their children to perform.”
During his show, Salguero said, “we travel around the Americas learning about music and practicing some Spanish. I play guitar, saxophone, and sometimes percussion and clarinet. Some songs help children learn about different rhythms of Latin America. For example, ‘La Clave’ teaches kids about a rhythm that is the heartbeat of salsa music. Other songs, like ‘The Seed,’ support curriculum learning like the lifecycle of the plant, and some are just pure fun!
“We also have a few fans who come to concerts with their own ukuleles, recorders or little saxophones. We always try to bring them on stage to jam with the band. Whether or not all these kids become professional musicians as their livelihood, what is sure is that they are developing a relationship with music that they will carry with them in some way for the rest of their lives.”
For information about Carpe Diem Arts and Jump Start with the Arts!, visit www.carpediemarts.org. View Carpe Diem Arts on CultureSpotMC here.
Latin Grammy Winning Artist Andres Salguero in Silver Spring