A graduate of the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance has won a Latin Grammy.
Andrés Salguero, who performs as 123 Andrés, won in the Best Latin Children’s Album Category for his record Arriba Abajo at the award ceremony Thursday in Las Vegas. His 2015 album, ¡Uno, Dos, Tres Andrés en español y en inglés!, was nominated in the same category.
Salguero, a native of Bogotá, Colombia, who now lives in Washington, D.C., graduated from the Conservatory in 2011 with a Doctor of Musical Arts and an artist's certificate in clarinet performance.
"I was drawn to Kansas City because of the Conservatory," Salguero says. "My goal in the academic, classical music world was to be a college professor. I got connected with a strong composition department there, and I worked with a lot of young composers who supported me in my creative endeavors. I ended up producing a full album of music where 70 percent of it was made by UMKC composers, written specifically for me, so all of that was great."
While at UMKC, he taught students from elementary through high school as part of the Conservatory's Musical Bridges program.
However, he says, his life was also taking a parallel path. He became more deeply connected with Kansas City's Latin music community, especially through longtime performer Pablo Sanhueza.
"I was learning and performing with him. I did the rounds at Jardine’s, I performed so many times at the Blue Room. And the (Westport) Beach Club, oh my God!" Salguero says.
That time playing and entertaining, he says, was a crucial learning period. Also key to his success was meeting, and then being hired to play with, children's music performer Dino O'Dell.
"I had written music for children but never imagined myself as a performer," Salguero says. "But having the opportunity to learn the craft and how to connect with kids was a big part of my education. I was learning from a great artist. I played with him for a few years and was eventually able to think about what can I offer that represents me, fills my need to express myself and to make change."
Salguero gave his first performance as 123 Andrés at White Recital Hall on the UMKC campus, as part of a Saturday-morning kids music series at the Conservatory.
While he was in Las Vegas for the Grammys, Salguero says, he paid a visit to Jerome D. Mack Middle School, where another UMKC Conservatory alum, Lindsay Lozito, is now a teacher.
"In Vegas, it’s all about money and glitter," he says, "and these kids live in the poor area, a 90 percent Latino neighborhood. Sometimes they feel ostracized and alienated. So they're happy when anybody else comes and talks to them and can help them see something new."
Salguero says it feels a little odd to have earned a doctorate — such a highly academic pursuit — but then have a career performing for children.
"But my vocal coach tells me: Once you do a doctorate, you can do anything. And I thought about that when I got on stage (at the Grammys). I said, 'I like to prepare.' That’s one of the lessons of life and I learned from UMKC, so before heading over there I sat at my computer and wrote a speech that represented the moment, and what I wanted to say. I was well prepared."
Here he is surrounded by his most enthusiastic audience (other than perhaps his former teachers and colleagues at the UMKC Conservatory) performing during the Hispanic Heritage Month celebration in October at the Kennedy Center in New York:
C.J. Janovy is an arts reporter for KCUR 89.3. You can find her on Twitter, @cjjanovy.