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William Cepeda: After the Storm


On Sunday, November 19, 2017, Afro-Rican musician, composer, educator, cultural icon and advocate William Cepeda spoke with Marysol Cerdeira, host of the popular radio show, Montuneando con Marysol (WBAI, 99.5 FM) about the impact of Hurricane Maria on the island and him personally.

At the time of the interview, roughly 90 percent of the island was without electricity and sixty percent without water. Also, internet service was unreliable, and traveling around the island was dangerous and, for the most part, impossible.

Like many Puerto Ricans on the island, Cepeda watched helplessly as the storm’s 155-mph winds ripped off roofs, flooded homes, stripped the island of its lush, green foliage, and destroyed performance spaces.

Devastated and unemployed, Cepeda temporarily relocated to Milwaukee, where he visited relatives, sat in with Eddie Palmieri’s band and introduced the composition, “Puerto Rico se levanta! (Puerto Rico Rises!).

Like many musicians on the island, Cepeda was forced to leave the island to find work. For the time being, he plans to relocate to Orlando, Florida where he says, he will restart his career from “zero.” “The island belongs to all of us. It doesn’t matter where we are. We have to come together, work hard and build Puerto Rico back better than it was. Also, we need to create a dialogue with people who understand and sympathize with our situation and develop projects that assist the arts.”

Much like Puerto Rico, Cepeda is down but not out. He plans to visit the island periodically and monitor its development. When the time is right, he will return to the homeland, pick up the pieces and rebuild.


Born and raised in Loiza, the heart of “Little Africa” in Puerto Rico, William Cepeda’s artistic excellence as a composer and creative visionary, his authenticity and advocacy for rigorous research, and comprehensive documentation of Puerto Rican music, dance, and culture have earned him multiple awards, grants, and recognition from the Institute of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture; Meet The Composer; the National Endowment for the Arts; the New York State Music Fund at Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors; American Composers Orchestra; American Composers Forum and the Association of Hispanic Arts.

A protégé of Dizzy Gillespie, William Cepeda was a member of his United Nations Orchestra, and Cepeda’s musical influences include artists such as Miriam Makeba and Lester Bowie. Always fresh and exciting, Afro-Rican Jazz never ceases to surprise and delight with William Cepeda’s unusual combinations, mixing new and different literary & musical artforms with traditional small jazz ensemble instrumentation.

In addition to world music and jazz, William Cepeda’s oeuvre includes contemporary classical music with his introduction of Bomba Sinfonica, full-length orchestral work for the symphony, opera, choir, and soloists published by Albany Records.

William Cepeda created Casabe Records (casaberecords.com) in 1997 to celebrate and document Puerto Rican music as well as professionally record and produce legendary Puerto Rican folk artists and ensembles.

Educated at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, the Conservatory of Music in Puerto Rico, and the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College, William Cepeda has two bachelors of arts degrees (one in jazz composition and arranging and one in music education) and a masters degree in jazz performance.

As a composer and educator, William has received several prestigious artist-in-residence awards including the 2002 Meet the Composer three-year New Residencies Program award and more recently at the Akiyoshidai International Art Village in Japan in 2009.

William Cepeda is an experienced and dedicated educator who welcomes opportunities to present conferences, workshops, masterclasses, and clinics for students, professional musicians, and children. Topics for conferences and workshops: Trombone / Conch Shells / Puerto Rican Percussion / Presentation as a Guest Artist / Traditional Puerto Rican Music. Latin Music, Jazz the theory and improvisation.

ARTIST WEBSITE: http://www.williamcepeda.com

A graduate of Empire State College with a dual major in journalism and Latin American studies, Editor-in-Chief Tomas Peña has spent years applying his knowledge and writing skills to the promotion of great musicians. A specialist in the crossroads between jazz and Latin music, Peña has written extensively on the subject. His writing appears on Latin Jazz Network; Chamber Music America magazine and numerous other publications.


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