November 21, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

SLJ Chats with 123 Andrés | ClefNotes

Andrés Salguero, better known as 123 Andrés, won the 2016 Latin GRAMMY for his second album for children, Arriba Abajo. His bilingual music for the smallest of learners captures themes that young children can relate to while introducing the musical sounds (samba, cumbia, cha cha cha) of the Americas.

Growing up in Bogota, Colombia, what role did music play in your life?

Music played a big role and as a child, I always saw it as fun! I was very fortunate because music was never forced on me—for example, through piano lessons—rather it was part of daily family life. For one thing, my parents signed me and my brother up for a children’s group where we would dance, sing, and perform traditional songs. At home, music became a bonding experience, particularly with my dad, who taught me how to play the guitar. Later, I entered a conservatory and studied the classical side of music.

 What brought you to the United States?

After finishing my undergraduate degree in Colombia, I wanted to continue learning and improving my musical skills. I was already bilingual before coming here and I was able to get a scholarship which allowed me to come. I’m very grateful for that first opportunity and all of the other chances I have gotten in this country.

You got your start in children’s music in Kansas City performing with Dino O’Dell. How did that experience play into your decision to pursue a career in children’s music?

It was very important for me! While I was finishing my doctorate in music in Kansas City, I got an offer to join Dino O’Dell’s band playing the saxophone, and that was my first opportunity to perform for children and families. Kevin (Dino) is an amazing teaching artist and I learned from him about connecting with the kids and putting education first as a goal. I may have not ended up doing children’s music if it wasn’t for him.

Describe your songwriting process. How do you choose the styles, the themes, which one of the many instruments that you play that you are going to feature?

Nowadays I usually start out with a specific idea of a topic. I may know I want to write a song that teaches about [blank] or discusses [blank]. Sometimes I spend a few days mulling it over, or not really thinking too hard about it and just letting my brain process it. Then it all starts with a phrase, ringing in my head as something people might connect with and sing to. That usually ends up being the first verse or the chorus. Another important part of the process is to sit down with Christina, my wife, editor, and thought partner. She lets me know when an idea works and when it doesn’t. As for genres, we try to have a variety of genres on the albums and that factors into the decision making. We want people of different backgrounds to connect with our music and the variety of genres helps!

You perform almost nonstop across the UnitedStates and Latin America. What is it about performing for families that keeps you enthusiastic and energized?

I love the feeling that we are all working together to raise better people for our next generation. It’s great to see committed parents, educators, and adults believing in the power of music and words. I find myself being an important character in children’s lives and that responsibility and joy keeps us going!

What’s next for you?

Our current project is a new album that will make you move and lots of new videos on our YouTube channel. Both Christina and I are working on books that hopefully will be at libraries soon!

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