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Montréal
Vendredi, 19 avril 2024

Luis Blanco, the orchestra man

A Colombian virtuoso in Verdun

Story by Sebastian Krieger
Traduction by Juliana Zerda

The guy who takes the dog out before dawn, the helper in the restaurant’s kitchen, the modest student, the volunteer at the community market on Mondays, the passenger whose Latin accent is still noticeable when greeting the driver “bonjour”… Behind an anonymous face almost always hides an interesting story. And Luis Blanco’s life is a big box of surprises.

He lost count of the songs his saxophone is heard on. Maybe more than 150 with more than 50 different artists, including salsa legends Cheo Feliciano and Bobby Valentín (both members of Fania All-Stars), Andy Montañez and Charly Aponte (El gran Combo de Puerto Rico) and singer Alex D’castro “El tenor de la salsa”.

His talent led the celebrated singer Yuri Buenavenura (famous for Ne me quitte pas, salsa version) to choose him for his band. Between 2003 and 2008, he took him on tour in most French-speaking countries: France, Switzerland, Belgium, Monaco, Luxemburg, Morocco, New Caledonia, Tahiti, Guadeloupe and Martinique, among many others. Today, Luis says, he learned the basics of French, thanks to apps like Doulingo, but the truth is he got advantage from the long-time touring… en français-.

But expertise, particularly in music, does not come for free. As a child, instead of playing soccer with friends, Luis spent his afternoons after school learning saxophone at the Universidad del Valle, the same university where, years later, he graduated as a musician.

In 2009, beating out hundreds of applicants, he was awarded the Fulbright scholarship, the most widely recognized international exchange program in the world for more than 50 years. Luis traveled to the United States to study at the prestigious University of New York, NYU, where he obtained his master’s degree in music theory and composition. Back in Colombia, he worked as a music teacher in a private school. However, he was seduced by the opportunities that are still available in Canada and especially by the beauty of Quebec.

The man landed only half a year ago in Nun’s Island from his tropical hometown. And here, he’s dealing with his first Winter, a cliché, but a harsh truth for any immigrant to Canada. Luis is optimistic, and he knows that here every day the sun will be brighter. And Montreal is already answering him with a generous smile: just a month ago, as part of the Journee verdunoise, he was recognized for his efforts as a participant in the training activities at the Centre Social d’Aide aux Immigrants, CSAI.

Currently, in addition to francisation, working part-time, raising three children, and walking his dog three times a day in West Vancouver Park, he’s studying audio and video post-production. He states that he would love to continue his career in the music industry, from composing (eg. jingles for advertising) to post-production. He also dreams of playing in a Big Band, with Bob Mintzer for example, for his true love is not salsa, but Jazz!

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