Ernesto Diaz

Assistant Professor

“I teach traditional, popular Caribbean and South American music. This music is a little tricky for musicians to play because it’s very syncopated, so for that reason, I really make sure that the student is well grounded in the beat. It’s easy to lose your way but the trick is to feel the beat instead of counting it. So we drum in the class and use different types of Latin percussion instruments, but I also have students do exercises where they get up and do simple dance moves and either clap, sing, or play the rhythms as they’re feeling the beat. That way, when they’re playing the off beats, they don’t get out of time. When you do drumming in folkloric settings, you don’t look at it as studying so much as tricks that you do to understand the rhythm better. Hopefully, these rhythms will make the students better instrumentalists and influence their music in some way.”

“My teaching style is to make sure that I am giving feedback to all my students in order to help the class move forward together as a whole. This sounds kind of cheesy, but I’m a really fun teacher. It’s a passion with me.”

“I really want my students to understand rhythm not as something written on a piece of paper or a board but as something they can really feel. Sometimes, students can read music but it doesn’t mean anything to them physically, so I emphasize movement. I want my students leaving the classroom singing the rhythms in their head. I’ve caught students outside my door teaching each other a break that we learned in class that people had a hard time understanding – one that I didn’t write it out for this very purpose – and then they’ll come back the next week and they’ll know the stuff. It’s amazing.”

Career Highlights

  • Performances with Latin pop star Gloria Estefan, the Boston Pops, as well as Cuban legends such as Cachao Lopez, Eliades Ochoa, Toumani Diabate, Paquito D’Rivera, and Oriente Lopez.
  • Recorded on Gonzalo Grau y La Clave Secreta’s 2008 album Frutero Moderno, which received a Grammy nomination in the “Best Tropical Latin Album of the Year” category.
  • Recorded with Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops on its 2000 album, The Latin Album, which received a 2001 Latin Grammy nomination in the "Best Pop Instrumental Album" category.
  • Led concerts with visiting artists such as Changuito, Giovanni Hidalgo, Horacio Hernandez, Francisco Mela, and Roberto Vizcaino.
  • Music featured in movies (The Blue Diner, Casa de los Babys) and on radio (WGBH’s La Plaza).