Luis Sanz learned how to play the cuatro, the national instrument of Puerto Rico, when he was only 4-years-old. Now 18, he has recorded two CDs, and travels the world with his guitar-playing sister, Lisvette, 20, giving concerts and workshops in Puerto Rican folkloric music across the U.S. and abroad.
Luis and Lisvette, otherwise known as Los Hermanos Sanz, are a young dynamic duo who are passionate about spreading their native music and culture. They just arrived to Chicago from their home in Puerto Rico to participate in the 14th Annual Cuatro Festival at the Harris Theater on November 10. More than 1,400 people are expected to attend this traditional celebration sponsored by The Puerto Rican Arts Alliance. This year’s theme is “Navidad con Cuatro”/”Christmas with Cuatro.”
“We are very proud and very excited to be here again,” says Lisvette about returning to Chicago after three years. “This is the second time we are sharing our music and culture at the Cuatro Festival.”
For Lisvette and Luis, it’s second nature to perform the music they were born with in their hearts. They have both performed with the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra, and most recently did a tour in the Caribbean islands and Europe. They have released two CDs, “Un Legado Para La Historia” and “Marcando La Historia” and are registered as an authentic folk music group at Puerto Rico’s Institute of Puerto Rican Culture.
They also love teaching others about the cuatro and their music, and while in Chicago, they will be visiting three local elementary schools to give workshops.
“We play music for them, and the most important thing is to demonstrate the cuatro that Luis is playing,” says Lisvette about the instrument most known for playing Puerto Rican folkloric music. “…but you can also play rock, The Beatles, everything. We play music from ‘Star Wars,’ ‘Superman,’ – things that [the kids] like…”
After having had graduated from the Music Conservatory of Puerto Rico with a major in musical education, Luis is currently working on two bachelor degrees – composition and arranging, and popular music and jazz, with a minor in education – from the Inter-Americana University of Puerto Rico.
“But when I teach, I learn too,” says Luis in his friendly and polite manner. “I learn so much with my students…I want to teach and study, and arrange and do compositions for the symphony orchestra.”
He explains that his goal after he finishes school is to be a composer for classical music for the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra and make the principal instrument the cuatro. He says that currently in Puerto Rico, there is not a lot of classical music in which the cuatro is used – more like cellos and violins.
“I play another instrument, but with the cuatro, I feel inspiration, I feel love, I feel other feelings that say this is my instrument that represents Puerto Rico, our culture, and me, too,” says Luis who comes from a musical family. “My father plays the guiro, my mom sings, and my grandfather plays guitar and sings, too.”
Lisvette says growing up they always had musicians coming to the house to play, but it was her younger brother who was her inspiration to become a musician, too. In the near future, she says she sees herself teaching as well and providing music therapy to kids with disabilities.
“I like to make music, because I like to see people’s faces happy and to educate our world, because music like ours can change the hearts of people,” says Lisvette who first learned the piano at age 8, and then at 13, began playing the guitar. “I think when we play, we feel the feedback of the people, and that makes us very happy…we call to the different generations – I like to see the different generations united.”