Arts and Entertainment

Spanish Harlem Orchestra to endorse ‘hard-core’ salsa Nov. 9 at Eisenhower

Spanish Harlem Orchestra, a Latin jazz big band led by Oscar Hernandez, will introduce New York-style “hard-core” salsa to a Penn State audience at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 9 in Eisenhower Auditorium. “To me, it’s an opportunity to keep that salsa music alive and to keep it on the pedestal that it merits,” Hernandez said in an interview with Latino Music Cafe. Credit: Amy-Beth McNeelyAll Rights Reserved.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Spanish Harlem Orchestra, the two-time Grammy-winning salsa and Latin jazz ensemble, will undoubtedly coax a rhythm out of the audience during a performance at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 9, in Eisenhower Auditorium on Penn State's University Park campus.

The 13-piece ensemble, featuring instrumentalists and vocalists, was founded in the early 2000s by sessions musician-band leader Oscar Hernandez and producer Aaron Levinson as a way to share the rich history behind New York-style “hard-core” salsa.

“To me, it’s an opportunity to keep that salsa music alive and to keep it on the pedestal that it merits,” Hernandez said in an interview with Latino Music Cafe. “Before we came around, what was popular was pop-salsa or commercial salsa. While some of it is good and (can) be popped on the radio a lot, some of it is not good because it’s lacking of what this music really is, of the tradition and legacy of where this music comes from.”

Watch a preview of the Spanish Harlem Orchestra’s 2017 tour. Credit: Spanish Harlem Orchestra

A number of top-tier jazz and Latin musicians have performed on the orchestra’s recordings, including Ruben Blades (on 2004’s Grammy-winning “Across 110th Street”), Paul Simon (2007’s “United We Swing”), salsa-timbra artist Issac Delgado (2010’s Grammy winner “Viva La Tradicion”), and Chick Corea and Joe Lovano (2017’s “Spanish Harlem Orchestra”).

The band’s performance, “which included appropriate choreography, was tight as a drum (pun intended),” wrote a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reviewer. “It was easy to hear why every CD that the band has recorded has received a Grammy nomination.”

For more information about the musicians and the concert, and for details about a related Salsa Social event, go to Spanish Harlem Orchestra or call 814-863-0255.

Artistic Viewpoints, an informal moderated discussion featuring a visiting artist or artists, is offered in Eisenhower one hour before the concert and is free for ticket holders. Artistic Viewpoints regularly fills to capacity, so seating is available on a first-arrival basis.

This presentation is part of the Center for the Performing Arts Diversity and Inclusion Collaborative, which seeks to: immerse an array of people in the performing arts; educate the community about cultures and art forms different from the familiar; influence thinking so we become a community that embraces diversity and promotes inclusion; and ensure the activities of the collaborative have a sustainable impact on the community. Funds from across Penn State and throughout the community support the initiative. The university’s Equal Opportunity Planning Committee provides lead funding. Sandra Zaremba and Richard Brown provide support. For more information, visit

Foxdale Village, A Quaker-Directed Continuing Care Retirement Community, sponsors the performance. Glenn and Nancy Gamble Endowment provides support.

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Last Updated October 10, 2017