City College Center for the Arts (CCCA) is marking the 60-year history of the legendary, Cuban charanga band Orquesta Broadway.
The event will be on Friday, March 24, 2023, at Aaron Davis Hall’s Marian Anderson Theatre, with a special concert featuring multi-award-winning flutist and educator Connie Grossman and esteemed flutist Karen Joseph. Award-winning radio host and Latin music historian Nelson Radhames Rodriguez serve as producer and emcee of the show, which starts at 7:00 p.m. EDT. Tickets are available at citycollegecenterforthearts.org.
Charanga is a term for a popular style of Cuban dance music — or the orchestras who play it — featuring violins, flutes, and various percussion instruments, together with vocalists. Founded in 1963, Orquesta Broadway is one of the oldest charangas, known the world over for its pulsing performances of the Afro-Cuban art form.
“Over the years, City College Center for the Arts has hosted numerous outstanding milestones in the Latin music industry, and I can’t imagine this celebration being elsewhere. Orquesta Broadway’s hypnotic Cuban charanga sound is sure to bring everyone to their feet,” said CCCA Managing Director Gregory Shanck.
“Rhythmic and poetic, the sound of a legendary orchestra preserving the tradition of the Cuban Charanga style. The smooth harmonies of the flute and violins make you dance and move like a feather caught in the wind. Traditional Cuban style persists under the direction of El Maestro Eddy Zervigon, who for more than 60 years has been the leader of the mother of all charangas outside of the island, La Orquesta Broadway,”said Rodriguez.
Orquesta Broadway members include Eddy Zervigon (director and flute), Ivan Zervigon (American drums), Pablo Mayor (piano), Berny Minoso (bass), Luis Mangual (congas), James Guevara (timbales), David Remedi (violin), Yunior Terry (violin), Hector Aponte (singer); Jorge Maldonado (singer) and Luis Rosa (singer).
The Marian Anderson Theatre is named after the distinguished African American singer who broke racial barriers and inspired new generations of singers of all backgrounds.
Q&A from Harlem World Magazine with Maestro Eddy Zervigón of Orquesta Broadway and others:
Harlem World Magazine: Who are the members of the band?
Eddy Zervigón: The band members of Orquesta Broadway are myself (I am the founder and director and I also play the flute with the band), Ivan Zervigón (American drums), Pablo Mayor (piano), Berny Minoso (bass), Luis Mangual (congas), James Guevara (timbales), David Remedi (violin), Yunior Terry (violin), Hector Aponte (singer); Jorge Maldonado (singer) and Luis Rosa (singer).
HWM: What is the secret to your success since 1963?
EZ: We play dance music only and we can see from the reaction of people during our concerts what songs they like. If we play a new song and the people don’t like it, they don’t dance, we don’t record it. That has helped us keep people coming to our concerts and being fans of our music.
HWM: Why did you and your brothers Kelvin and Rudy create Orquesta Broadway in 1962?
EZ: My brothers and I started Orquesta Broadway because we loved making music and when we came to the United States from Cuba that was the only way for us to make a living at the time.
HWM: Orquesta Broadway, is a Cuban charanga band can tell us more about charanga?
EZ: A charanga band is a type of instrumental band that developed in Cuba at the end of the 19th century. They are associated with danzon music from Cuba and with Afro-Cuban music, but the band can play any type of music. A charanga band is composed of violins, flutes, percussion and rhythm instruments, piano and two singers.
HWM: What advice do you have for young musicians who want to follow in your musical footsteps?
EZ: I believe there is no secret for those who want to be musicians. It just takes dedication and a love of music.
HWM: What are some of your favorite places in Harlem (parks, food, etc.,)?
EZ: There are many places in Harlem that I loved to go to because Harlem is where we created Orquesta Broadway but now many of those places no longer exist.
HWM: The event could have been held anywhere, why is the event at the fabulous City College Center for the Arts?
EZ: We founded Orquesta Broadway at 135th Street and Broadway, just a couple of blocks away from where City College Center for the Arts is located. It is very nice to be able to celebrate 60 years of the band back in the neighborhood in which we started and at an institution that helps bring great music and art to the community.
City College Center for the Arts
The award-winning City College Center for the Arts hosts an ambitious, year-round calendar of professional performances in the historic Aaron Davis Hall. Our mission is to provide a creative arts center and focal point for the City College of New York, building a sense of community within the College, elevating the profile of Aaron Davis Hall in the greater New York area and connecting the College to the surrounding community through the arts.
The 630-seat Marian Anderson Theatre is the largest theatre in Aaron Davis Hall. It was dedicated in 1993 with a tremendous ceremony featuring Harry Belafonte, Jessye Norman, Max Roach, Martina Arroyo, Arthur Mitchell with members of Dance Theatre of Harlem and Phylicia Rashad.
Marian Anderson is remembered as one of the best American contraltos of all time. She was the first African American singer to perform at the White House and also the first African American to sing with New York’s Metropolitan Opera. Ms. Anderson’s achievements, which inspired generations of young black performers, also included a concert before 75,000 listeners at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939 arranged by Eleanor Roosevelt after the Daughters of the American Revolution denied the singer the use of the concert hall in their national headquarters.
Orquesta Broadway is a Cuban charanga-styled band founded by flutist Eddy Zervigón and his brothers Kelvin and Rudy in New York City in 1962. Charanga is an instrumental format of Cuban original music developed at the end of the 19th century that consists of a flute, violins, bass, and a rhythm section composed of conga, timbale, and güiro. The orchestra was named after the avenue most members lived near in Manhattan upon the suggestion of Catalino Rolón, the booking agent of the Palladium Ballroom— the place where the orchestra made its official debut and, also, where four years later it would play the world-famous ballroom’s final dance.
Orquesta Broadway has stood the test of time by becoming not only one of the few surviving charanga bands in New York but the longest-running of its type outside of Cuba. Sixty years after its founding, the ever-in-demand orchestra continues to enjoy an enviable place at the forefront of Latin music in the United States.
The band made its recording debut in 1963 on the Gema label with an album entitled “Dengue,” which included “Como Camina María,” the band’s first hit, followed a year later by a self-titled album, also on Gema. Its next releases, “Arrímate Pa’ Acá” and “Tiqui-Tiquia” in 1965 and 1966 respectively for the Musicor label, solidified the orchestra’s popularity as one of New York’s best and helped catapult the band onto the international scene and a tour to Caracas, Venezuela, in 1967. The band has continued to tour and after over a twenty recordings, its album “Orquesta Broadway 40 Aniversario” was nominated for the Latin Grammy® Awards in 2003.
On June 30, 2012, Orquesta Broadway celebrated its 50th anniversary with an acclaimed concert at New York’s Lincoln Center where Mr. Zervigón and the band were presented with a special proclamation by New York’s City Council. Last year, the group was the main attraction at the Gran Fiesta Cubana concert in Medellin, Colombia, where the band played opposite Cuba’s Orquesta Aragon, New York’s Tipica Novel and Guateque Project, a local aggregation.
Eddy Zervigón, the flutist, musical director, and founding leader of Orquesta Broadway was born in Güines, a small town 48 kilometers southeast of Havana. In 1962, he and his brothers left Cuba and arrived in Miami where they stayed for a brief time before finally settling in New York City, where Mr. Zervigón worked with the bands of Lou Pérez, Johnny Pacheco, Alfredo Valdés Sr., and Arsenio Rodríguez before founding Orquesta Broadway. He has appeared as a guest soloist with Manny Oquendo’s Conjunto Libre, New York’s Grupo Folklórico y Experimental, and Eddie Palmieri’s band.
Multi-award-winning flutist Connie Grossman, born in Sleepy Hollow, New York, has performed throughout the U.S. and abroad and has studied and performed in Cuba. Classically trained, she holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in flute performance from SUNY Purchase and a Master of Arts in Teaching in music education from Lehman College. She performs as a Latin jazz and classical soloist and has played and recorded with many of the top groups in the Latin music scene including cuatro legend Yomo Toro; her own group, CharangaPasion; Charanson; The Latin Jazz Coalition; Cocomama; Juan Carlos Formell; Companhia das Musicas; Conjunto Kathari; Charlie Donato Y Son Ideal. She is also a featured artist with SonSublime since 2000, appearing on their three most recent CDs. Grossman is the recipient of the Bronx Council on the Arts’ BRIO award in the music performance category for one of her original compositions, the New York Latin Music “Pionero” award and the Charanga Legends Lifetime Contribution to Charanga Music Award. She has performed in such venues as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Newport Jazz Festival and The Smithsonian Institute, and has been featured in Clave, Latin Beat and Impacto magazines, where her article, “Charanga: Then and Now” was published. Grossman has appeared with Lavar Burton on Reading Rainbow in a feature on jazz musicians as well as other TV appearances. Most recently, she had the honor of being a featured performer along with Mike Manieri and Bernie Williams at the 2018 Pacheco Latin Jazz Festival at Lehman College. The flutist has taught instrumental music in public schools throughout the Bronx and Westchester County for over twenty-five years, is on the faculty of the Westchester Summer Arts Music Center and is currently the Director of the Band program at Edgewood Elementary School in Scarsdale, New York. In December 2021, Grossman released her debut album as a solo artist, Chasing the Sunset, now available on all digital platforms.
Native New Yorker Karen Joseph has established herself as one of the premier flutists in the Latin music genre, performing with several groups including Charanga ’76, Charlie Rodriguez’s Conjunto featuring Johnny Pacheco & Pete “El Conde” Rodriguez, Hansel y Raul with Israel “Cachao” Lopez, Siglo 20 with Felix “Pupi” LeGarreta, Charanga America, Johnny Almendra y Los Jovenes Del Barrio, Iroko La Banda and Yerason Orquesta Charanga. In addition to leading her own group, MamboCha, she performs with Annette A. Aguilar & Stringbeans, Leopoldo Fleming’s Aggregation and Anthony Carrillo y Yambawa. She has toured extensively with 10-time Grammy Award Winner Eddie Palmieri y La Perfect II and continues to work with him.
Her recording credits include the Fania All Stars, Charlie Rodriguez, Charanga 76, Kid Creole & the Coconuts, Grant Greene, Richard “Groove” Holmes, Los Jovenes Del Barrio, Iroko La Banda, Gregor Huebner and Eddie Palmieri.
In recognition of her contributions to the Latin music industry, Joseph has been the recipient of the New York Latin Music Pionero Award, Salsa Superior Award and the Caribe Latino Show Award.