PBA is proud to be hosting its annual Hispanic Heritage Festival, which will take place October 14–15. The festival is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the Iberian-American cultural heritage through a display of art, music and poetry from various countries. PBA’s Hispanic students make up 18.3% of campus, representing 22% of the male and almost 19% of the female population, according to PBA’s Fact Book. Marcio Bezerra and Estibaliz Gastesi, a married, piano-playing duo, founded the festival as a way to honor Hispanic heritage through music. They now serve as the festival’s executive producers, and they generously shared their story with us below.
The Founding and Growth of PBA’s Hispanic Heritage Festival
We started the Hispanic Heritage Festival at PBA in September 2009 as a way to commemorate our tenth anniversary of living and working as musicians in Palm Beach County. Marcio was then working as an Adjunct Professor at the School of Music and Fine Arts, and he approached Dr. Lloyd Mims, Dean Emeritus, with the idea of setting up a two-day concert series featuring classical music from the greater Hispanic world.
We had been playing the piano as a team since our graduate studies in the 1990s and, by then, we had a history of working with living composers, especially from Spain and Brazil. So, it was natural that we featured music from composers from those two countries throughout the festival’s history. However, we have also aimed to include music from many other cultures, and we were very happy to bring in distinguished guest artists who have helped us fulfill our vision.
We have brought, among others, a guitar player, a string quartet, a flute-piano duo, a clarinet-piano duo, many singers, and even an organist and a harpsichordist.
We used to collaborate with El Alma Hispana, a now extinct group that did poetry recitation in Spanish. The high point of that collaboration was the concert that Dr. Justin Rubin presented at the chapel. It featured Spanish and Portuguese music from the 18th century interpolated with religious Spanish poetry from the Golden Century.
For the past three years, with the support of Dr. Jason Lester, Dean of PBA’s College of the Arts, we were able to turn the festival into a scholarly conference, and we have been able to attract scholars from major institutions across the country and abroad. This year, our featured recital will be an all-women program with music from Brazil, Argentina, Spain and the United States, and the PBA Chorus will showcase Latin American Choral Music for the second concert.
We see the possibility of growing this even further as this is a rare opportunity for the community to explore classical music from so many countries and cultures, and it is also an important and growing part of our own population.
It has been a wonderful adventure of discovering and sharing little-known music from so many great composers with our community, and we can only hope for many more editions to come.
Marcio Bezerra and Estibaliz Gastesi, Piano Duo Gastesi-Bezerra