José W. Fernandez is a jazz connoisseur, diplomat, and lawyer. He is a partner in Gibson, Dunn and is recognized as a leading corporate finance attorney in the Latin American market. Fernandez served as the Assistant Secretary of State for Economic, Energy and Business Affairs from December 2009 to October 2013. At the State Department he led the Bureau that is responsible for overseeing work on international trade and investment policy; international finance, development, and debt policy; economic sanctions and combating terrorist financing; international energy security policy; international telecommunications and transportation policies; and support for U.S. businesses and the private sector overseas. He has also served on the boards of NPR-station WBGO-FM, Ballet Hispanico of New York and the Middle East Institute. He was a co-founder of TeatroStageFest, a two-week Latino theater festival in New York City, and was appointed a Commissioner of New York’s Latin Media and Entertainment. Fernandez received his undergraduate degree in History from Dartmouth College and his Juris Doctor from Columbia University.
Benjamin Lapidus is a musician, composer, and scholar. He teaches in the Department of Art and Music at John Jay College/CUNY. He recently published the volume New York and the International Sound of Music, 1940-1990. He is the recipient of the Latin Jazz USA Lifetime Achievement Award, joining the ranks of the great musicians “who have made outstanding contributions to Afro-Cuban jazz.”Lapidus comes from a family with a long tradition of playing music and has said the seeds of his interest in Latin American and Caribbean music came from his father,” a jazz pianist who, as a young man, drove from Brooklyn to Mexico, and then traveled to Cuba.”Lapidus says the music that he performs, teaches, and writes about is distinctly New York in character, and as an academic he focuses much of his research on these interactions. He believes “There’s a movement that’s been happening in New York for a long time where people from throughout the Caribbean and Latin America come and interact with the jazz musicians here, and that combination has led to a lot of developments not just in Latin jazz but in the pop music of the Caribbean. Different genres in different countries are greatly influenced by what happens here, so historically New York has been really important.”He has played his signature instrument, the Cuban tres, in more than 50 recording sessions and also recorded eight studio records. He received his doctorate from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.
Christopher Washburne is a trombonist, composer, band leader, and educator. He received his doctorate in musicology from Columbia University where he teaches and is the founder and director of Columbia’s Louis Armstrong Jazz Performance Program. He has published numerous articles and the book Sounding Salsa: Performing Latin Music in New York. His newest book is Latin Jazz: The Other Jazz. As a trombonist, he has toured extensively with various groups and concertized throughout Europe, the Americas, Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean. He has commissioned and premiered over twenty contemporary compositions for trombone and has performed on over 150 recordings. His highly acclaimed Latin jazz group, SYOTOS, is one of the busiest and most in demand Latin jazz groups in New York, performing at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, BAM, the Blue Note, MOMA, Smoke, Dizzy’s Coca Cola Club, Smalls, and the Brooklyn Museum of Art. His jazz group, FFEAR, co-led by saxophonist Ole Mathisen, has been featured on NPR’s JazzSet. He has performed with the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri, Justin Timberlake, Ruben Blades, Manhattan Chamber Orchestra, Gloria Estefan, Chico O’Farrill and many others.
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