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3 Reasons Not to Miss Arturo Sandoval

1. He’s a protégé of the legendary Dizzy Gillespie

In 1977, fortune delivered Arturo Sandoval of an unlikely opportunity: meeting the great Dizzy Gillespie in Cuba. The American jazz trumpeter stopped in Havana for his tour and using a broken-down 1951 Plymouth, Sandoval drove Gillespie around the island, sharing a vivacious passion for everything music and fun.

During the trip in Havana, Sandoval kept his musicianship a mystery for most of the day. Later that night, Gillespie walked backstage to surprisingly see his “driver” playing his licks.

 "I knew a bunch of his lines, his phrasing and things," Sandoval says. "He was laughing and laughing because he was so surprised. He saw me as his driver, the guy who was showing him the city — and not only was I a musician, I was a trumpet player. I'd never told him in the whole day we spent together."

- Arturo Sandoval (NPR--Days with Dizzy: Arturo Sandoval On His Trumpet Mentor)

 This moment would spur a lifetime mentorship until Gillespie’s death in 1993.

2. To say he’s accomplished is an understatement.

Let’s look at his modest list of accolades:

  • Ten-time Grammy Award Winner
  • Emmy Award Recipient
  • Six-time Billboard Award Winner
  • 2013 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
  • 2015 Hispanic Heritage Award Recipient
  • 2016 Honorary Doctorate recipient in Fine Arts from The University of Notre Dame

Sandoval’s joy of music mixed with a gratitude-fueled work ethic has garnered him a resounding wave of recognition. From composing the underscore for his biopic For Love and Country, to recording a dedicated album to his mentor Dear Diz “Every Day I Think of You”, Sandoval’s grand repertoire will have you wishing there was more than just one night.

3. He defected from Cuba to follow his love for jazz.

In 1971, Sandoval served his obligatory term in Cuban military service for “three years and four days…”. During this time he was thrown into jail for three months after being found listening to jazz on the radio. After his service, he founded the band Irakere and together they fused traditional cuban music with jazz to secretly play it in nightclubs. With political turmoil ramping up in 1990, Sandoval left Cuba and found asylum in the United States with his family, where he can play any music he wants and as loud (or quiet) as he wishes.

“Born into poverty in Cuba and held back by his government, he risked everything to share his gifts with the world. In the decades since, this astonishing trumpeter, pianist and composer has inspired audiences in every corner of the world and awakened a new generation of great performers. He remains one of the best ever to play.”

–Barack Obama (presenting Arturo Sandoval The Presidential Medal of Freedom)

 Must-Do's Before Watching Arturo Sandoval

Arturo Sandoval’s concert on Thursday, July 12, will be a concert full of hearty jazz learned on the streets of Cuba. Bestowing a great deal of influence and teachings from the great Dizzy Gillespie, Sandoval is sure to display his expansive range, snazzy licks and masterful tone of his trumpet. Here are a few things to help you get ready for a fiery night underneath the stars.

Watch the HBO Special, For Love or Country

Experience the journey of Arturo Sandoval leaving his home country to find the freedom to play the music he loves. From serenading the love of his life, to being jailed for listening to jazz, to touring internationally with Dizzy Gillespie and struggling to gain citizenship in the United States, immerse yourself in a story where music is something more than just a song - but an idea worth fighting for.


Listen to your San Diego Symphony’s Arturo Sandoval Playlist on Spotify

While living in Cuba, jazz was something Arturo Sandoval had to “camoflauge” so as not to be questioned about his loyalty to the nation. With creative genius, he and his band Irakere fused Afro-Cuban drums with bebop-influenced trumpet lines in order to secretly play jazz in the spotlight of night clubs. Listen to the upbeat energy and lively rhythm in the recording of Ella knowing that under this disguise, Sandoval and his fellow musicians found reprieve from the strict hand of the government and played their instruments however their hearts desired.

You can find Arturo Sandoval’s songs and more on a curated playlist on your San Diego Symphony’s Spotify


Arturo Sandoval’s concert will be a celebration of the freedom to express yourself, and we hope to see you all there under the starry skies of the Bayside for an unforgettable evening, Thursday, July 12, beginning at 7:30pm.


This post was written by Joe Pascual, Marketing Intern for the San Diego Symphony. 

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