His reaction to the scholarship
We are here with Venezuelan percussionist and musician Omar Ledezma Jr. Good afternoon, Mr. Ledezma, how are you? Nice to meet you.
Same to you, Karina. It’s great to be participating again in the activities of International Salsa Magazine, a magazine that I have much appreciation and I’m find of it. Here we are always at your service.
According to your website, you received a scholarship to study at Berkeley College of Music. How did you receive the news that you were selected?
That was interesting because when I arrived in the United States, I applied for the scholarship, so I had to extend my stay here in order to attend the audition in a December. In January, I got a letter that said I passed the audition and awarded the scholarship to study at the school. That was one of the most important news in my life.
So you were in the United States at the time you received the scholarship.
Yes, because there was no way I could have done that in Caracas, where I am from. So, I had the opportunity to travel to Boston to apply for the scholarship. Thank goodness, I had the opportunity to come and everything worked out fine.
Regarding technical and musical issues, what differences between your native country and the United States did you notice?
The first thing I noticed was that there were many opportunities. Really, I can say that I didn’t face the same constraints as in Caracas. When I started playing, I had many opportunities to go abroad to take my art. I already had the experience of having done it in my country with many other artists.
I think It would’ve been no different if I was in Caracas because I would have taken all the opportunities, played with many people and made my career there. However, I was able to go to Boston and took that opportunity. A few months later, I was already playing with school teachers, classmates, graduates and new people I met in a very interesting way. Despite my constraints related to the language, you can establish such interaction with all of them.
We understand that you are teaching at the SF Community Music Center and work hand in hand with other academic institutions, what made you dedicate yourself to teaching and training young talent?
I think it is important to lay the groundwork for the future. The present is lived now and the past provides us with experience, but we should always open the road forward for the future and new generations. I think that legacy for musicians is very important. We have to pass those teachings on to new generations.
Do you feel that the language shut doors on you at the beginning?
Not really. I have always thought that language should not be a limitation to fulfill your dreams. You have to respect the language of the country you are moving to, but without forgetting the mother tongue with which you were born, which is why I am a big supporter of bilingualism. You have to learn English, but without forgetting Spanish. It is a very important tool for young people whose parents were born outside the United States and moved here, but they should not forget their roots.
His experience at the Tempo Latino Festival
You have already told us that you have had the opportunity to tour the world. Could you tell us a little about your experience with Tempo Latino?
It was a very important experience for me and the group that I’m in, Pacific Mambo. It was an incredible experience with a massive attendance and it was surprising that we were able to meet that many people after the pandemic. We were playing in an arena full of people where we were warmly received.
It was very nice to feel the warmth of the live audience again and massively.
How was the flight, the arrival, the reception and everything that happened before the show?
It’s interesting because when I lived on the Northeast United States coastline, it was very easy for me to travel to Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean and other parts of the United States. Moving to California makes it more difficult because the trip is longer. It takes me about 11 hours to get to any port in Europe, and then being there, you have to make connection to get somewhere else. In our case, it was a full day of travel, as we arrived through Portugal. It was there that we waited for our connection to get to France. There were many people entering through the port of Lisbon, but there was no problem at all.
Already in France, the welcome the Tempo Latino staff was absolutely incredible. The audience was already waiting for our show. Then, we arrived to the village where the festival takes place and traveled a very beautiful route with spectacular scenery. Despite the fatigue, we fully enjoyed the trip.
When you played in the arena, how many people were there?
It is difficult to count the amount of people people there. I don’t have the exact numbers, but I can tell you that the arena was packed at the time of getting to the stage. We had the responsibility of opening for other well-known groups such as Los Van Van, so the arena was already full of people at the time of performing our show.
How was the audience reception towards you?
The audience reception was very warm and touching. People did not expect the band to have that contact and respect for the public like every time we perform. Many people enjoyed the hits we have had throughout our career such as OverJoyed by Stevie Wonder, Pink Panther Mambo, among other songs. When I did my solo with the timbales and the drums, I achieved a sound very much like We will rock you by Queen and I had to keep playing it because people were singing the song. An amazing thing that had never happened to me in my career.
I heard that when you left France, you turned out to be infected with Covid-19, could you tell us what it went?
Yes, it came a surprise for me because I had not been infected since I went back to work on the street after the pandemic. I returned to my activities in the schools where I work and started providing shows again, but I had never tested positive for Covid-19 despite having been exposed. In fact, I have traveled to play in many places and even went on vacation to Venezuela, but I never contracted the virus.
When I return from my travel at the Tempo Latino festival, I was feeling a little sick and thought it was the fatigue of travel, but it turned out to be Covid-19. Fortunately, symptoms were very mild and I followed the treatment prescribed by the doctors. It took a little while for the virus to go away, but it all worked out. It was a period of forced vacation, as I had to wait about 20 days for the tests to be all negative.
Are you planning other international tours to Europe or Latin America?
We are negotiating to go to the East Coast and Canada in November. We are also making preparations for another small tour in the fall.
Today, the San Francisco Jazz Organization is going to broadcast our concert for subscribers, which makes us very happy.
What projects do you have on hand?
With regard to the band is concerned, we have talked about the possibility of making a new album and the way we want to do it. We are already looking for the music, the composers and the songs for the pre-production of this new musical work.