Puerto Rico Dr. Rosalín Pabón is musical director of the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra.

Published on November 19th, 2013 | by Mark Chesnut

Dr. Rosalín Pabón is musical director of the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra.

Q&A: Dr. Roselín Pabón on the Latin Grammy Awards & Puerto Rican Music

It’s that time of year again: The Latin Grammy Awards are taking place November 20-21. And as usual, Puerto Rico has lots to celebrate, with nominations in several categories — including Draco Rosa for Album of the Year and Best Contemporary Pop Vocal Album (Rosa was born in New York and raised in Peñuelas and Ponce, Puerto Rico), and Elvis Crespo featuring Fito Blanko for Best Urban Performance (New York City-born Crespo was raised in Puerto Rico, although Blanko is from Panama). Three-time winner Ricky Martin — who’s nominated this year together with Draco Rosa for Record of the Year — will perform live at the award ceremony (he’s also staging a live public concert in Cancun in December — click here to find out how to get free tickets).

But the Isla del Encanto produces more than just high-profile Latin rock, pop and urban works. A live recording of a Puerto Rican operetta — Rafael Hernández’s Cofresí — has also been nominated by the Latin Recording Academy, for a Best Classical Album Latin Grammy. Hernández, who died in 1965, composed the piece in 1949. In this exclusive interview with LatinFlyer.com, Dr. Roselín Pabón, the musical director of the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra, shares his thoughts about the work and how travelers can enjoy Puerto Rican music.

What makes this particular work especially noteworthy for the nomination? 
It is important to clarify that this is not the first classical piece from Puerto Rico to be nominated; several works have been nominated in the past years. The operetta Cofresi is the first commercial recording made by the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra and has been nominated.

What makes this particular work noteworthy is its creator, Rafael Hernández, who is best known for popular music songs such as “El Cumbanchero,” “Cachita,” “Lamento Borincano” and more than 2,000 compositions in total. It is rare for world-renowned composers of popular Latin American and Carribbean songs such as Hernández to create operettas like Cofresi.

How would you describe the evolution of Puerto Rico’s diverse musical scene overall? 
Puerto Rico’s culture has always been very diverse and can be described as a mix of Taino, African and Spanish influences. This fusion extends beyond music to every aspect of Puerto Rican life including our cuisine, art, museums and traditional festivals.

Puerto Rico’s folk and country music is as diverse as any other Caribbean and Latin American nation and musical composers such as Rafael Hernández, Pedro Flores, Bobby Capó and Sylvia Rexach have dominated the popular music scene in our hemisphere for decades. Not to mention the accomplishments of our younger generation of pop artists such as Ricky Martin and Rene Pérez.

The creation of the Free Schools of Music, the Conservatory of Music in San Juan, the Festival Casals and the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra in 1958 greatly developed the musical scene. Opera and Ballet companies have grown in numbers and quality; and popular local music ensembles often accompany international performers at shows in numerous theaters and coliseums. Other Puerto Rican symphonic ensembles to note include the Philharmonic Orchestra, the Conservatory of Music Symphony Orchestra and the Puerto Rico Youth Symphony.

What about the capital city of San Juan? 
San Juan has a very active classical scene. Symphonic concerts are presented every Saturday evening at the Sala Sinfónica Pablo Casals concert hall. On Sunday afternoons, visitors and music lovers alike can attend recitals at the Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music Theater.

On a regular basis, cultural organizations such as Pro Arte musical, Coro Nacional, Coral Filarmónica, Orfeón San Juan Bautista and several ballet and opera companies put on productions and performances.

What are some of the best ways for classical music lovers to enjoy this style of music when visiting Puerto Rico? 
When planning a trip to Puerto Rico, visitors should check out SeePuertoRico.com for all types of information regarding cultural events and activities as well as various musical venues.

Your orchestra performs regularly at the Luis A. Ferré Performing Arts Center. What do you have planned in the coming months that might be good for visitors to the island? 
The Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra has a beautiful performing hall, the Sala Sinfónica Pablo Casals. It can seat approximately 1,200 people and is a modern and comfortable space with great acoustics.

In 2014, our season includes spring concerts featuring a variety of musicians. Pianist Rivera Guzmán and Director Edmon Colomore will perform March 29th “Of Gypsies, Bohemian and Jesters.”

A pair of April concerts will feature Violinist Alexandre da Acosta and Director Maximian Valdes in “Looking for Eternity,” and Harpist Elisa Torres with Director Carlos Miguel Prieto in “The Voice of America.”

What “must-see” musical venues do you recommend for live performances in other cities in Puerto Rico? 
San Juan has the most active classical music scene, followed by the city of Ponce in the south of the island and Mayaguez on the west coast.

Concerts in Ponce are regularly presented in La Perla Theater. On Sunday afternoons, a Chamber Music Series is presented at the Inter American University.

Where are you from originally? 
I am originally from Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. I have worked with the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra for the past 33 years, and I am now Director Emeritus. I also want to clarify that although my name is Roselín, I am not a woman. I understand the confusion, as it is something that has happened all my life.

MORE INFO:  Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra on Facebook
Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra Website

Puerto Rico Tourism Company Website

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About the Author

The founder and editor of LatinFlyer.com, Mark has more than 15 years of experience as a writer, editor and manager. He's worked with some of the biggest consumer, in-flight and travel trade publishers that cover Latin America.

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