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Old 09-01-2006, 01:53 PM
Richie_Rumbero Richie_Rumbero is offline
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Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: New York City
Posts: 11
Why did it take me two years at the harbor before i knew about the east harlem school, & to find out that most of my teachers were there before they came to the harbor?

This is just my own personal opinion based on observation. Ramon Rodriguez, in particular, seems very reluctant to recognize anyone or any other entity that mirrors the work he's doing. Which is why you and others probably may not be aware of the Multicultural Music Group which is another non-profit institution dedicated to instruct and preserve the culture of latin music and also includes many of the instructors who went through Johnny Colón, Boys Harbor and some of the emerging latin-american musicians on the scene. Although, to be fair, this reluctance is not exclusive to Boys Harbor. Very few musical institutions would or will ever sing the praises of other similiar musical institutions. You won't find Julliard ever promoting the Manhattan School of Music or the latter talking about the New School or they praising the efforts of the Mannes School in harlem. Unless of course a musician/instructor happens to be associated with more than one and they are self-promoting on their own...

Was there any rivalry? is this a sensative question?

I'm sure there was. Though it may have been kept in the dark as far as the public was concerned. Two organizations dedicated to the preservation and dissemination of Latin Music, it's culture and history and only a mere few blocks within walking distance of each other, is bound to create some form of rivalry or perhaps even a slight animosity. Both were funded in part by the government and, obviously, both are attempting to accrue even more funding by the state or federal government in order to support their work. With the limited amount of funding provided by our government towards the arts, but especially towards those revolving around a Latin-american culture, one of the two would've lost out on some much needed $$$ due to one being awarded the financial support in favor of the other.

Could or should have both entities combined? Perhaps. But that would mean someone would have to submit some "power" and lose complete and total administrative control. And some people would rather have crumbs, rather than a loaf of bread, if it meant those crumbs would be theirs and solely theirs to do with as they choose...

There is a new influx of teachers--very good, all of them--but more recent immigrants. They didn't come up in harlem listening to james brown or latin soul, etc. There are certainly a lot of kids there, and they're out there playing 4 or 5 nights a week before they hit 17, some of them. Between the newer teachers, the administration, and the legends who have been educating in the barrio for 30 years or more-- there isn't a complete agreement on what the fundamentals of latin music are. But the kids are coming, and they have minds of their own, and *something* is happening.

The ethnic makeup of the instructors has definitely changed. Which of course will directly affect their musical slant of what they happen to be instructing in. What was once a predominantly Urban New York latino or Nuyorican faculty is now a combination of recently arrived musicians hailing from Colombia, Cuba, and other parts of South America. All of whom excel in specific areas and are experienced within specific formats that may be alien to the traditional New York Salsa Orchestra. The great thing about such diversity is that a student has options to pick and choose from...

SO, back to my q: what happened in the 70s in the neighborhood that created the right ambience for these two schools? why did it happen THEN?

I would say one of the reasons was that it was during a time when the musical preferences of the youth were geared towards the musical elements found within "Salsa" and it had reached a level of popularity not seen before that it was only a matter of time before aficionados of the music would want to become involved in contributing to the music. I tend to speculate that the fact that there had been years of independent instruction taking place prior to Johnny Colón opening the doors to his music school, must have been some form of inspiration to him. Allowing him to realize the potential that there was a demand for such instruction and with a legitimate and state recognized music school at his disposal, he could round up all of these musicians who were independently teaching on their own and provide them the space, resources, and other benefits, befitting of an educator. And couple that by bringing the music to a standard. It woul no longer be "Street" music, but music that had to be learned at an institutional level and be just as respected as any other form of institutionally trained music...

And--what has changed in terms of venues? what keeps the music in the neighborhood? 'salsa', as im beginning to learn about it on a more academic level, has reached nearly all ends of the earth. but here it always feels local. you can catch the legends, johnny at La Fonda and people like chocolate who drop in whenever... karen from la perfecta god bless.

"Salsa" is as much a part of the New York Latino culture as anything else,. "Salsa" has no specific ethnic identity, despite the roots of the music and it's musical content. South, Central, North Americans, Europeans, Asians, all embrace this music. You yourself jsut mentioned three musical figures from different cultural backgrounds Johnny (Nuyorican), Chocolate (Afro-Cuban), Karen (African-American). Yet, all are linked to each other by way of the music. It stays in the neighborhood as long as the people within those neighborhoods remain a part of it. They are simply celebrating the culture that they lived or was passed down to them from previous generations.

Are there fewer venues for young players to learn by rote? my teachers are always pulling me up on stage-- but i don't know the barrio of 30, 40 years ago.

I would say so. There are way fewer venues then there were at one point. Aside from a lack of venues, there are also new obstacles that make it impossible to be able to interpret this style of music. The draconian cabaret laws that have been enforced within the last few years under the Guiliani Administration and has carried over with the Bloomberg regime. But their actions are also reflective of a public demand. Our music tends to be regarded by the most of the general public as noise pollution. There are few bars, lounges, restaurants or performance spaces that allow for latin percussion because they deem it as entirely too loud. You also have a situation where the places that are available to interpret such music, there is very little to no compensation whatsoever. Very few of the more polished musicians want to find themselves in such a situation. Less and less of the youth want to take the plunge and develop a jam session and play in front of a potential audience. They prefer to hone their craft in school and wait until they are called upon by an established veteran to perform, rather than do any "shedding" on their own.

Hope some of this info helps...

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