UNCSA graduate student performed on Grammy nominated song

A Puerto Rican graduate student in the School of Music at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts performed on a recording that is nominated for a Latin Grammy Award for Best Tropical Song. Luis Sanz, who is studying for a Master of Music degree in composition, performed on the cuatro, a stringed instrument, on “Hijos del cañaveral,” with rap artist René Pérez Joglar, known artistically as Residente.

Luis Sanz

Luis Sanz enrolled in the UNCSA School of Music in August 2017. 

Inspired by catastrophic damage caused by Hurricane Maria and recent earthquakes in Mexico, Sanz also is composing a concerto dedicated to his homeland and his Latin American roots.  He hopes to premiere the work in a concert to benefit relief efforts.

Presented by the Latin Recording Academy, the Latin Grammys are the preeminent honor for excellence in Latin music and the only peer-presented Latin music accolade. The 18th Annual Latin Grammy Awards take place Nov. 16 in Las Vegas, and will be televised live on Univision beginning at 8 p.m.  Residente, a Puerto Rican rapper and producer, leads the list of Latin Grammy nominees with eight, including Album of the Year and Record of the Year.

Sanz, who studies at UNCSA with Lawrence Dillon, earned his bachelor’s degree in Music Composition at the Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music, where he met Brian Cole, who was the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs there and is now the Dean of the UNCSA School of Music.

I think Luis will be an important force in the new generation of Puerto Rican performers and composers. He will be instrumental in the development of Puerto Rican music—and the role of cuatro—in the 21st century.

Music Dean Brian Cole

“Luis always stood out as an incredibly talented and motivated student,” Cole said. “He has always shown a professionalism beyond his years, and I think that comes from the fact he’s been performing professionally with his family since he was very young.”

Sanz began playing the cuatro at the age of four, and five years later was invited to perform as soloist with the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra. When he was 12, he and his sister formed the band Hermanos Sanz, and together they have performed more than 600 concerts in Latin America, the United States, France, Spain and Corsica.

He recorded his first album, “Un legado para la historia,” when he was nine. Four albums have followed, including two with Hermanos Sanz.  Their most recent recording, “Ponte en pie," was released in 2014. The title track is used as theme music in the Puerto Rican government’s motivational rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Maria.

Luis Sanz at WFDD

Luis Sanz demonstrated the cuatro in the studio of public radio station WFDD on Oct. 11.

“Luis is a young artist with tremendous potential, and is very deserving of every opportunity that has come his way,” Cole said.

Sanz is the first artist to explore use of the cuatro for classical music, and he composed the first concerto specifically for cuatro, “Fantasia para cuatro y orquesta.” The concerto premiered in 2015 with Orquesta Sinfónica del Conservatorio de Música de Puerto Rico conducted by Roselín Pabón.

“It was an important new work for Puerto Rico because it expanded the cuatro’s repertoire in Western Classical Music, which is still very limited,” Cole said. “The public in Puerto Rico really loved it, and it has since been performed by various orchestras on the island and has generated interest by groups on the American mainland as well.”

While Cole left Puerto Rico to become founding Dean of Academic Affairs for Berklee College of Music’s campus in Valencia, Spain, he never forgot the island in Latin America that was filled with musical talent.

“I always say that if you took a cut-out in the shape of Puerto Rico and put it anywhere over the map of mainland United States, the concentration of talent on that small island is equal or even greater,” Cole said. “That was one of the reasons I loved working there, and I’ve always looked for opportunities to help young artists from Puerto Rico to move forward in their careers. The island of Puerto Rico and its people will always be so special to me.”

Cole said Sanz’ performance on the Grammy-nominated song is one thing that foretells a long and illustrious career for the young artist. “I think Luis will be an important force in the new generation of Puerto Rican performers and composers,” he said. “He will be instrumental in the development of Puerto Rican music – and the role of cuatro -- in the 21st century.”

Cole said the principal values that UNCSA School of Music instills in its students are artistry, creativity and versatility. “Luis exemplifies all three. I think he will make us very proud in the future.”

by Lauren Whitaker

October 30, 2017