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Festival Spotlight: César Orozco Combines Love of Jazz with Cuban, Venezuelan Roots

Cesar about to play piano
Photo by Andrew James

César Orozco has developed a unique style of music that combines his lifelong love of Jazz with the musical influences he experienced while growing up in Cuba and living in Venezuela.

César is a prolific pianist, violinist, composer, arranger, producer, and educator.

Born in Cuba in 1980, he later earned a degree in Violin Performance and Ensemble Conducting from the National School of Arts in Havana in 1998. That same year, he traveled to Venezuela after accepting an invitation from the Carabobo Symphony Orchestra as a violinist. In Venezuela, César performed and recorded with some of the most celebrated local artists.

César moved to the United States in 2012, with his wife and two young daughters, and enrolled with a full tuition Assistantship to The Peabody Institute of John Hopkins University in Baltimore, where he earned a Graduate Performance Diploma in 2014.

César’s brother was already living in the U.S. when César moved to the U.S., so that helped with his transition. But after working as a professional musician for 14 years in Venezuela, adjusting to life as a student at the Peabody Institute was a challenge.

Although he spoke some English, César experienced an initial difficulty while in class due to the language barrier. Adding to the pressure was the fact that he knew he couldn’t return to Venezuela or Cuba.

“All of those things together make a very challenging scenario,” he says.

But eleven years later, things are going great for César and his family. “I have my own house. I have a teaching position in a private high school,” and he continues to experience success with his musical career.

Since relocating to the New York tri-state area in 2015, he has become an in-demand pianist as a sideman as well as a leader of his own projects.

Cuba provided the foundation for much of César’s musical influences and after moving to Venezuela, he fell in love with that country’s music.

Along with the musical influences from Cuba and Venezuela, César grew up as a fan of Jazz music. He was 10 years old the first time he heard Jazz artists such as Chick Corea and Oscar Peterson.

When people asked him what he planned to do in terms of crafting his approach to music, combining his love for Jazz with his Cuban and Venezuelan musical influences became the answer for César.

“It’s not easy, but that’s what I did,” he says. “The highlight of my career” is that decision.

Cesar looking serious playing keyboard on a stage
Photo by Mario Davila

“I am a fusion of everything, and I think that’s what people recognize about what I do,” César says.

César will be performing at the 2023 One Journey Festival with Jorge Glem, a Latin Grammy Award-winning and Grammy nominated cuatro player, mandolinist and musical producer. César and Jorge recorded the album “Stringwise.”

This will be the third year that César and Jorge have performed together at the festival.

When people attend the One Journey Festival, they discover the purest element of a country, César says. “Its culture, its people, its dances, its music and I think this festival showcases all of that, and it’s amazing.”

You can see César Orozco and Jorge Glem live at the One Journey Festival on Saturday, June 24 at the Washington National Cathedral. Get your free tickets to this full day of celebration, food, shopping and fun HERE.


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