Charanga Danzón is a fluid ensemble of wonderful musicians, with a repertoire of Cuban music including traditional charanga, son/danzón, cha-cha-chá, classical, and jazz.      (To read the artist's bio, hover the mouse over his or her photograph)

Irene plays on a violin made in 1760 by Richard Duke (London). She has had it since she was 13 or so, when she received it as a gift from her parents. The previous owner was the concertmaster of the Detroit Symphony (and one of Irene's teachers), Gordon Staples. One of these days Irene plans to do a family tree of the violin in the hopes of discovering that it was once played by Mozart himself (not impossible)... who, she is quite convinced, would have loved Charanga.

Andy's classic Cuban-style conga drum was made by Natalio Tirado Ruiz (AKA "Junior"), the "Stradivarius" of drum craftsman, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in the 1970's. Though Junior was born and raised in Puerto Rico, his drums look exactly like the best drums from Cuba, similar shape and design but with better craftsmanship and materials. Among the many artists who have had the good fortune to own Junior's drums are Mongo Santamaria, Jerry Gonzalez, Ray Barretto, Steve Berrios and the late, great, Frankie Malabe, Alberto Serrano, and Frankie Rodriguez.

Click to hear Irene's Sept. 23 2008
interview on KUOW radio

Click to hear Irene's May 8 2008
interview on KUOW radio
Irene Mitri is a classically-trained violinist who has crossed over into other musical styles, including Cuban charanga, Latin jazz, contemporary classical and pop. She holds degrees in music and education from the Cleveland Institute of Music, Yale University, and Harvard University, with major teachers including Mischa Mischakoff, Paul Kantor, David Cerone, Bernhard Goldschmidt and members of the Tokyo String Quartet. Irene's versatility as a violinist has allowed her to share the stage with a broad range of great artists including Yo-Yo Ma, Nigel Kennedy, Rickie Lee Jones, Burt Bacharach,The Moody Blues, Queensryche, Rod Stewart, Chucho Valdés, Richard Egües, and Hilario Durán. Since her first visit to Cuba in 1993, Irene has returned to the island over 10 times to teach, study, perform, and conduct research. Photo

Irene Mitri

Andrew Schloss, professor of music at the University of Victoria, Canada, has a long history of involvement with Cuban music. His first recordings of Cuban music were released on Folkways records in the early 1980's, and in 1994 and 1996 he was the musical director of the acclaimed !Afrocubanismo! Festival at Banff, in which many of Cuba's top artists participated. Andy has been collaborating with leading Cuban pianists for several years, including Chucho Valdés, Ernan lopez-Nussa and Hilario Duran, experimenting in the area between Afro-Cuban jazz and electroacoustic music. He studied at CCRMA (Stanford University) where he received his doctorate in 1985, and has received numerous international awards and fellowships including Fulbright, NEA, NSERC, SSHRC and La Fondation Daniel Langlois. Andy is co-founder of Fundamento Productions, which has released two classics of cuban music: Ilu Aña Sacred Music of Cuba and !Afrocubanismo!. Photo

Andy Schloss

Born in Havana and inspired by the great Cuban percussionists Changuito and Tatagüines, Pedro Vargas began playing congas when he was just eight years old. In 1997, he joined the Piquete Cubano and started touring with Barbarito Torres of "Buena Vista Social Club" fame. Pedro recorded two albums with Barbarito, including "Havana Café" and the Grammy nominated self-titled "Barbarito Torres." He has toured worldwide with Barbarito Torres and timba legends, Los Van Van, performing in North and South America, Europe and Asia. In 2008 Pedro formed Grupo Ashé, which specializes in timba, a contemporary cuban music style that combines the elements of traditional Cuban music, salsa, funk, jazz, rock and hip hop.

Pedro Vargas

Originally from New England, Fred Hoadley studied music at Hampshire College and Berklee College of Music, where his teachers included Jaki Byard, Vishnu Wood, and Charlie Banacos. He founded the Seattle salsa band Bochinche in 1983, which reigned as The Northwest's favorite Salsa band throughout the 1980's, and produced the band's first recording in 1985. After Bochinche, Fred toured nationally with the West African band, Kukrudu, and founded the Seattle based Afro-Cuban jazz band Sonando, whose 1994, 1998, & 2006 releases received critical acclaim around the country. He currently plays piano and tres in Sonando, The Fred Hoadley Trio, Cambalache, Charanga Danzón, & The Susan Carr Ensemble. Photo

Fred Hoadley
Flutist Jim O'Halloran has performed extensively in the Northwest and internationally with Charanga Danzón, Mambo Cadillac, Latin Expression Orchestra, and Global Village as well as with his own group the Jim O'Halloran quintet. He was the leader and composer for Afro-Cuban jazz bands Chela and Freezerburn. He received his BA in flute performance at Eastern Washington University and studied with Felix Skowronek at the University of Washington as well as attending master classes with Julius Baker, James Galway and Keith Underwood. In addition, Jim is a CCRN, working in the electrophysiology lab at Virginia Mason Hospital. Photo

Jim O'Halloran
Seattle-based, Boston-born bassist and pianist Ben Verdier has enjoyed making music since 1985. He studied classical and jazz theory and piano performance while getting a degree in computer science at Stanford University in 1993. He has since studied classical and jazz double bass performance at the University of Washington, and is experienced in a wide range of styles including Afro-Cuban, Son, Rumba, Changüi, Danzón, Salsa, Bossa Nova, Samba, Baião, Tango, Latin Jazz, Swing, Standards, Modern Jazz, Avante-Garde/Experimental, Funk and Rock. Ben performs regularly on bass and piano with Sonando, The Alma Villegas Quartet, Cambalache, Marco de Carvalho, and many other groups. Photo

Ben Verdier

With a repertoire spanning from J.S. Bach to Jimi Hendrix, Michael Nicolella is recognized as one of America's most innovative and eclectic classical guitarists. Michael has performed throughout North America and Europe as solo recitalist, chamber musician and soloist with orchestra. Classical Guitar magazine recently referred to him as "one of the contemporary guitar's most gifted stars," while the Washington Post stated, "Since the passing of Andres Segovia the guitar world has needed an advocate... perhaps Michael Nicolella is that person." Michael's education ranges from undergraduate studies at Berklee College of Music, where he studied improvisation with jazz greats Gary Burton and Billy Pierce, to Yale University where he received his Master of Music degree, to post-graduate studies at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena, Italy, as a scholarship student of Oscar Ghiglia.

Michael Nicolella

Francisco Medina Jr. ("Junior") grew up listening to classic bands such as Conjunto Clasico, El Gran Combo, Fania All-Stars, and Willie Rosario. In his 25-year career in music, he has shared the stage with many top artists including Tito Puente, Pink Martini, Sonora Dimanita and Oscar De Leon. Junior has also performed and recorded with several local bands including Expresion Latina, Tumbao, Bochinche, Mambo Cadillac, Sonando, Jazz Police and Nueva Era. Currently, Junior plays congas for the Seattle-based group Tumbao, timbales in Expression Latina (a band started by his father in 1987), and is involved with the band De'Calle. "I am, and I always will be, a student of my instrument."

Francisco ("Junior") Medina Jr.

Lance Lu has been a teacher, performer, and instrument maker of the shekere for over two decades. He has recorded and performed with a variety of musical artists, spanning the genres of jazz, Latin, African, and Brazilian music. He has also performed in musical theater with the Seattle Rep and The Empty Space Theater. In 1994, Lance started his training in salsa and Cuban dance, and eventually became a principal dancer in the Cuban dance company, TropiCuba. His principal dance teacher was Roberto Borell of Havana. Besides teaching shekere, Lance also teaches Yang style Tai Chi Chuan and Cuban partner dancing.

Lance Lu

This is Sam after a long night of composing. He has never missed a rehearsal.

Sam (our composer)

Last Updated January 1, 2011