Department of Music, Cal State L.A. | Spotlight

Master’s candidate gifted with musical flair

Guerra’s work to be considered for the 2012 Latin Grammy nomination

Photo: Yalil Guerra.
CSULA graduate student Yalil Guerra (c) working at the production studio. Photo: Yalil Guerra, Aurelio de la Vega and Ken de Vito.
L-r: Composers Yalil Guerra, Aurelio de la Vega and Ken de Vito at Elizabeth Rebozo’s Los Angeles debut concert on the CSULA campus.

Blessed with the rhythm gene at birth, Cal State L.A. graduate student Yalil Guerra displayed a natural talent and passion for music at an early age.

Guerra, whose parents are the well-known Cuban folk-music vocal duo Rosell y Cary, began his studies at the National School of Music in Havana, Cuba, to become a classical guitarist and to hone his performance skills.

At the age of 16, Guerra took first place at the prestigious International Competition and Festival of Classical Guitar in Krakow, Poland, making a name for himself.

In 1990, he started his career as a producer, composer and arranger, and has thus worked with many professional artists and companies.

Now 39, Guerra’s recent endeavors include writing music for U.S. television networks, such as Univision, Telefutura and Canal 41 Miami. He also composes works for solo instrument performers as well as for chamber and choral ensembles. His classical pieces have been premiered and performed in the United States, Canada, Colombia, Ecuador, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Spain.

Guerra’s composition, “A la Antigua” for string orchestra, recently premiered in the 2011-12 season of the Brentwood Westwood Symphony Orchestra.

For his album, “Old Havana Chamber Music Vol. I,” which features two string orchestra works, a woodwind trio, a brass quintet and a choral piece, Guerra was nominated by the Latin Recording Academy in the Best Classical Album category in 2010. That same year, he was also selected as runner-up for the Cintas Foundation Fellowship in music composition.

Not one to rest on his laurels, the Latin Grammy-nominee is currently pursuing a master’s degree in composition at Cal State L.A., studying under John M. Kennedy, professor of music. Guerra also holds a master’s degree in classical guitar from the Royal Conservatory of Music “Queen Sofía” in Madrid, Spain.

“Cal State L.A. is one of the most culturally diverse universities in Southern California, making me feel like I am at home,” said Guerra, who hopes to widen the artistic and rhythmic appeal of Cuban music in Los Angeles. “The faculty, staff, the programs and infrastructure are really amazing and yet affordable. CSULA creates the appropriate learning experience to all the students, no matter where they are coming from. I am very pleased and thankful for having such an institution in Los Angeles.”

This past spring, Cuban pianist Elizabeth Rebozo made her Los Angeles debut at CSULA, performing classical and chamber music by Guerra and other Latin American composers. The album of the concert, entitled “Live in L.A.,” is being considered for a Latin Grammy nomination this year. The album is also produced by Guerra through RYCY Productions, Inc.

Professor Kennedy indicated that he has heard many composers who try to incorporate the music of their culture into traditional concert music. However, he said, “Yalil’s music is among the most successful of this cross-cultural genre. His music is fresh, has impact and reflects the rich musical traditions of his native Cuba in a very natural and homogenous manner.”

“As a composer, Yalil is the type of student our department has attracted for many years,” added Kennedy. “The diversity of style here in the CSULA music area, along with the diverse approach to music by the artist teachers here, allows students like Yalil to flourish.”

For Guerra’s composition, “Seducción,” performed by Rebozo, click here:

For “La Muerte del Angel,” another composition included in the “Live in L.A.” album, click here:

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