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2011 Charlie Palmieri Memorial Piano Scholarship Recipients
(Published: March 29, 2011)

El Barrio/East Harlem, New York - Harbor Conservatory for the Performing Arts is pleased to announce that four young pianists, Gregory Chen, Jack Ramsey, Joshua Benitez and Kevin Rentas have been selected as the 2011 recipients of the Charlie Palmieri Memorial Piano Scholarship established by Tito Puente. They will receive a half-scholarship to study Latin style piano at Harbor Conservatory for a full year. The Jurors in this year's competition included guest artist Sonny Bravo, as well as faculty members Pablo Mayor and Enrique Haneine, who reached a unanimous decision.

Over the course of its 21 year history, a host of talented young pianists have received the invaluable support provided by the Palmieri scholarship enabling them to pursue in-depth training and preparing many of them for entry into leading conservatories such as the Berklee School of Music, and the Jazz Program at the New School. The Conservatory is proud that the majority of Palmieri recipients are currently active professional musicians who represent the legacy of the great Charlie Palmieri and the generosity and vision of the King of Latin Music, El Rey Tito Puente.

In style, versatility and instrumental virtuosity, bandleader/pianist/arranger Charlie Palmieri had few equals. In addition to recording, arranging and performing he taught music and Puerto Rican history in the CUNY system. The late great Tito Puente, master timbalero, arranger, composer, and bandleader, cared deeply about education and took great pride in his own extensive studies at the Juilliard School on the GI bill after he served in the Second World War, as well as his pursuit of the Schillinger Method of Theory. He believed strongly in the need for youngsters to continue and/or begin their musical studies, as well as to reaffirm pride in Latino culture.


Gregory Chen, age 19, is currently a student at the Manhattan School of Music, where he is studying with Gary Dial. He also studied with Michael Zilber at the Jazz School in Berkeley, California, as well as with Murray Low and Peter Harvath (privately). Gregory enjoys the music of Eddie Palmieri because of the powerful trombone sound and hard groove. He decided to participate in the Charlie Palmieri Competition because he wants to learn to play Afro-Cuban music with authentic vocabulary and groove.

Jack Ramsey, age 23, is a student at the New School of Jazz and Contemporary Music. He has studied with George Cables, Irvine Santos Netos and Jimmy Owens. Jack enjoys the music of Tito Puente, Cachao, and Bochinche. "My parents used to play Tito Puente albums for me when I was a kid and it made me want to dance and sing out". His professional goal is to play and compose good music with good people and get it out into the world in whatever ways possible. His interests include Jazz, Classical, Afro-Cuban, and Brazilian.

Joshua Benitez, age 16, and son of John Benitez, a well-known bass player, has participated at Jazz Summer Camps and studied with Bob Albanese. He currently attends the Fordham High School for the Arts. His favorite Latin musicians include: Eddie Palmieri and Chucho Valdez , because of the strong relationship between piano and percussion. His professional goals are to perform and music production.

Kevin Rentas, age 16, has studied piano at the Bloomingdale House of Music as well as at the Harbor Conservatory, under the direction of Pablo Mayor. He received the highest scores in his preparation for the Competition. Kevin enjoys the music of Papo Lucca and Richie Ray, because they are very different in style and really interesting and unique, especially in their solos. Kevin's goals include recording, composing, learning to play different styles of music and having a band of his own.


Since 1970, the Harbor Conservatory for the Performing Arts, a division of Boys and Girls Harbor, Inc., has undertaken an important role in the preservation of Afro-Caribbean Latin music. Under the direction of Ramon Rodriguez, The Conservatory's efforts have revolved around two equally important activities: the amassing of materials which make up the unprecedented more than 20,000 piece Raices Latin Music Museum and the instruction and development of the next generation of Latin musicians. The goal of the Harbor Conservatory's Latin Music Program is to foster the development of individuals to become well rounded, technically proficient, literate and creative musicians with an excellent understanding of basic Afro-Caribbean folkloric and popular rhythms and musical styles, and knowledge of the music's history and seminal artists.

The Music Program at the Harbor Conservatory takes pride in its commitment to serving children, teenagers and adults in a diverse range of styles from Classical and Jazz to Folkloric and Latin. The two main pillars of the music program are a strong theory foundation as well as an active performance calendar with monthly "in-house" student recitals, three major outside recitals and a guest artist series which hosts a variety of well-known performing artists and master teachers to work with our students. A large number of ensembles and workshops in all styles and levels are offered to our young performers as an important part of their musical development.

For more information about the Harbor Conservatory you may visit us on-line at www.harborconservatory.org or call: 212/427-2244 ext. 573.

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