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Café Bellas Artes honors Roberto Ocasio

By Arooj Ashraf, La Prensa Correspondent

It was a night to celebrate music, and honor the memory of a beloved friend whose musical legacy is exposing a new generation to the sounds and passion of Latin jazz.

Five years ago, eleven Latino artists collaborated on a vibrant mural to celebrate Roberto Ocasio’s life. The 20 by 6 ft. mural has a permanent home at Cleveland State University’s Waetjen Lobby where Café Bellas Artes and CSU’s Office of Diversity & Multicultural Affairs hosted a free reception and concert on June 12, 2009.

“This mural represents unity,” said artist Salvador González. “Artists have big egos but we all came together for Roberto to create this,” he said. The artists: María de Jesús Paz, Augusto Bordelois, Bruno Casiano, Alejandro Rivera, Dante Rodríguez, Linda Ayala, Joe Ayala, Rafaél Valdivieso, Mario Kujawski, Carlos Alvares, Hector Castellanos-Lara, and Angelica Pozo hail from different Latin American countries, with different artistic expertise but unified the mural to represent Ocasio’s relentless efforts in composing and playing his music.

González began Café Bellas Artes as a project of Cleveland Museum of Art as a venue for Latinos to showcase culture, arts, and tradition in Spanish and English with the greater community. He has since retired and returned to México to run a bed and breakfast, but the Café Bellas Artes continues to meet the second Friday of every month to explore Latin dances (salsa, merengue, and so forth), music, poetry, and arts.

A unique session included showcasing of a Middle Ages European guitar and how it has evolved into various related instruments, for example, like the cuatro of Puerto Rico.

Roberto Ocasio Latin Jazz Project performed at Drinko Hall, accompanied by New York-based percussionist, Bobby Sanabría, a Berkeley College classmate and lifelong friend of Ocasio’s.

Roberto Ocasio

Sanabría is also the Artist-in-Resident instructor for the Roberto Ocasio Latin Jazz Music Camp.

The four-day camp is scheduled for July 12-17, 2009, at Baldwin Wallace College Conservatory of Music. The camp is open to Middle and High School students and the curriculum exposes participants to bossa nova and Brazilian jazz as well as mambo/salsa, and evening jam sessions with professional artists.

Bev Montie
, manager of the Roberto Ocasio Foundation, said the camp attracts participants from as far as Detroit and Ann Arbor and interest has grown in the past five years. With the help of private donations the foundation is able to provide scholarships to defer the $500 tuition.

In the Arooj Ashraf photo on the top of this article are artist Salvador González and Roberto Chávez of CSU.

For more information on the Foundation visit:

Bobby Sanabría






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