William Cepeda

For Immediate Release Contact: Linda Gross, Marsha Gordon, LCG

June 30, 2008 Communications: 718.853.5568;



Summer Concert Series Brings Musician William Cepeda a Step Closer to Completing Compilation of the History of Puerto Rican Music

Brooklyn, New York: The July 5th concert in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park will be the latest in a series of concerts organized by Puerto Rican musician, composer and arranger, William Cepeda (http://www.williamcepeda.com) as the core component of a monumental project called Puerto Rican Music Roots and Beyond.

Puerto Rican Music Roots and Beyond was conceived as a means to “preserve, disseminate and promote Puerto Rico’s musical heritage” to a global audience. Although there isn’t a shortage of research and writings on the history of the country’s musical styles of bomba, plena, musica jibara and danza (and the traditions of maskmaking and costume-making that accompany them), William Cepeda’s project is a never-before-achieved comprehensive musical documentation of the four genres as a group. It also proposes to demonstrate how they “manifest themselves in a contemporary context” and “evolve as uniquely Puerto Rican, living, dynamic musical tradition.” Cepeda comes from a lineage that can best be described as Puerto Rican music royalty; so he has lived and made the history he seeks to capture and document – a fact that one might rightly assume gives him uncommon command of the musical lexicon. Still, as the date for the first of three planned summer concerts nears, he is feeling the full weight of the undertaking.

“There’s so much that is involved in getting this project done just right,” he said recently, during a break from rehearsals that are currently taking place in Puerto Rico. “Booking artists and venues and getting folks to come to the concerts – that’s the easy part. What’s really tough is the pressure to make sure that the project is truly representative and that the authenticity of the historical overview of the music is beyond question.”

The project is a collaboration with Centro de Estudios Puertorriquenos at Hunter College (http://www.centropr.org) in New York and La Casa de la Herencia Cultural Puertorriqueña, (http://www.lacasapr.org) also in NYC. Furthermore, it is made possible through funding received from the New York State Music Fund and the National Endowment for the Arts. These associations strengthen the project, but it is in fact the culmination of Cepeda’s life’s work. A member of the world renowned Cepeda Family, one of Puerto Rico’s most distinguished Afro-Puerto Rican folkloric ensembles, he began his prodigious musical career at age ten, choosing the trombone as his instrument of choice. His destiny as a musician may have been set before he was born, but the trajectory of his career was perhaps most profoundly influenced by an icon of American Jazz – Dizzy Gillespie, for whom Cepeda worked for a period in the 1980’s and ’90’s and under whose mentorship he began his groundbreaking work as a pioneer of Afro Rican Jazz. Over the course of the past decade he has created and produced works that plumbed new and exciting depths of centuries old Puerto Rican music, and in so doing has had more than a passing influence on the contemporary sounds of salsa and reggaeton. Like his former mentor, Cepeda has achieved icon status in his own right.

So when asked why he felt the need to assume the role of musical historian when he could easily rest on his laurels as a musician, Cepeda had a ready response. “This music is my purpose,” Cepeda stated. “Lots of people know me only as a musician, but I’ve been a student of the music just as long as I’ve been playing it.” His impressive credentials support the claim. He holds two Bachelor of Art degrees, one in jazz composition and arranging from Berklee College of Music in Boston and one in Music Education from Conservatory of Music in Puerto Rico. He was the recipient of a full scholarship to the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College in New York, where he received a Masters Degree in Jazz performance, and studied composition and improvisation with Donald Byrd, Jimmy Heath and Slide Hampton. He has also taught at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music and the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico.

It is his unique perspective and background as practitioner and scholar that gave rise to Cepeda’s desire to “create the most comprehensive resource on Puerto Rican folkloric and contemporary music, to be referenced for years to come by academics, musicians, music students, artists and schools.” The three upcoming concerts (July 5 @ Celebrate Brooklyn, Prospect Park, “Noche Boricua;” August 9 @ La Casa de la Herencia Cultural Puertorriqueña, Inc.; October 17 @ Symphony Space, World Music Institute) along with those that took place last year (to critical acclaim) and an upcoming week-long festival in Puerto Rico will be captured on DVD to serve as the centerpiece of a rich database of educational materials that will encapsulate for the ages the considerable musical contribution of a small Caribbean island.

To learn more about Puerto Rican Music Roots and Beyond, the concert series and the associated workshops that will be conducted, go to http://www.williamcepeda.com or www.puertoricanmusic.com

To request an interview with Mr. Cepeda, please contact Marsha Gordon or Linda Cronin-Gross at LCG Communications – 718.853.5568; linda@lcgcommunications.com, marshag@lcgcommunications.com