Berklee Students Shine at Latin Grammys

By 
Mike Keefe-Feldman
November 26, 2013
Berklee students and Alejandro Sanz rehearse for the Latin Grammys.

The Berklee community was a driving force at this year’s Latin Grammy Awards, with students performing live at the ceremony and alumni winning several awards. The awards, which were held on Thursday, November 21, at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas and broadcast live on Univision, brought together the top names in Latin music, who watched as 30 Berklee students performed “La Musica No Se Toca” with Latin pop sensation Alejandro Sanz.

Prior to the performance, Sanz delivered some motivational words to the Berklee students, says Marco Flores, a contemporary writing and production major at Berklee from Mexico City who also serves as president of the Latin American Music Business Association (LAMBA).

“He came up to each of the students and told us, ‘You will do it. You will be your best tonight,’” Flores, who played guitar for the performance, recalls. “And he just said, ‘Enjoy it,’ and I think that’s what most of us did, as you can see in the video of the performance:"

The experience was surreal for some of the student performers, including vocalist Natalia Sulca, a performance major and resident assistant at Berklee from Miami, Florida who plans to graduate next year.

“The idea that Marc Anthony was right in front of me, watching me sing?” says Sulca, as if still in disbelief about her own excellent performance at the Latin Grammys. “These people have been my idols since I was little. I’ve been listening to these people forever and it was just so incredible that they were enjoying my performance when I have enjoyed so many of theirs.”

Berklee students had previously performed with Sanz on November 6, when he received an honorary doctor of music degree from Berklee. Sanz also presented a clinic for Berklee students and, earlier this year, students in a Songwriting in Spanish course taught by Berklee Mediterranean Music Institute artistic director Javier Limón made a popular video for “La Musica No Se Toca,” which you can view here:

Getting the song to the stage of the Latin Grammys required a lot of work, and much of that work was delivered by Esther Rojas, a contemporary writing and production major at Berklee from Colombia who handled logistics like coordinating with Univision and getting all parties involved—be they in Spain, Boston, or Las Vegas—on the same page.

“Javier Limón asked me to be in this project, which was his idea, so I did the co-producing with him, the co-arranging with Tali Rubinstein, who is a very talented Berklee student, and the musical direction,” says Rojas. “I learned a lot.”

Rojas also joined in as a performer, as did Rubinstein, who, along with another student performer, Naseem Alatrash, made this performance the first time that an Israeli and a Palestinian musician have performed together at the Latin Grammys, according to Limón.

The song seems a fitting choice for collaboration between Sanz and Berklee. “The song basically says that, no matter what happens—wars, famine, everything in the universe—music will always be untouchable,” Sulca says. “I think all of us from Berklee singing a song like that—it just felt so beautiful and so powerful.”

Backstage at the Latin Grammys, according to Billboard, Sanz said, “Those (Berklee) students are the future. I’m thankful to see them perform. They are the hope for music and they are the future of the Latin Grammys.”

Berklee alumni won three Latin Grammys at the awards ceremony, including an “Album of the Year” Latin Grammy for Benny Faccone ’78, mixer for Draco Rosa’s immensely popular Vida. Juan Luis Guerra ’83 and Sebastian De Peyrecave ’04 also took home Grammys. Limón, Shafik Palis ’01, and Tommy Torres ‘93 were also nominated for Latin Grammys this year.

Since the Latin Grammys were established by the Latin Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences in 2000, 25 Berklee alumni have received 74 Latin Grammys, making Berklee an influential and constant presence at the biggest night in Latin music—a presence made all the more special by this year’s student performance.

Flores adds that, for the Berklee students, the value of the Latin Grammys trip extended far beyond just the performance at the awards ceremony itself, noting that he met several Berklee alumni already working in the industry and eager to help newcomers.

“Some of them even suggested, ‘If you ever need something or if you’re going to graduate soon, don’t wait to call me and let me know if you’re coming to L.A. so maybe I can give you an internship or something,” Flores says. “This was coming from people with something like 11 Grammys—very successful people in the music industry. So, the concert was great, but apart from that, the whole week was very positive in every aspect. It was an incredible opportunity.”