Mi Mambo!

Music meets the streets of East Harlem at the Harbor Conservatory where Latin rhythms create a lifeline for kids

A film by Pat Jaffe, Molly McBride & Juan Barrera
Premiering on public television stations nationwide beginning October 2006

On the sidewalks of East Harlem, kids bang out the complex rhythms of salsa on overturned cans. Down the block, neighbors merengue to the sounds from a pulsing boom box. And around the corner are some of the most accomplished and diversely talented young musicians. More and more we hear the sounds of Latin music all around us. Mi Mambo!, a one-hour documentary, steps inside the Harbor Conservatory for the Performing Arts in East Harlem to explore the power of Latin music pulsating in the lives of its students and teachers. As one student described it, “Latin music is heart and soul. Latin music comes from the street.” 

Mi Mambo! is where the school meets the street. As the internationally recognized resource for Latin musicians and authentic Afro/Caribbean musical training, the conservatory awakens young men and women to appreciate the musical art form of their Latin roots, and to master its rhythms. Conservatory Director Ramon Rodriguez calls it a “labor of love.” The staff is dedicated to fostering students’ musical and personal development, helping them to fulfill their hopes and dreams, and encouraging them to go beyond any perceived limitations of gender, race or economic boundaries. The young performers benefit from the opportunity to mix with an array of visiting artists. In Ramon's advanced workshops, accomplished students perfect a son, cha-cha or mambo, which they then perform together in concert. 

Underscored by the syncopated rhythms of salsa, the film settings shift between school and street. Featuring some of the Harbor’s students, Mi Mambo! follows Yeissonn, Lai Ara, Tirza, Oreste and Alba onto the streets and into their homes, and captures the personal struggles and family life in which these young adults challenge their future. Latin music has become an integral part of American culture. Drawing on a diverse student body of varied ages and backgrounds from around the world, the Harbor strives to create an everlasting institution that will give credence to Latin music, and preserve it in the same way as classical & jazz. It is through the passion of its students that this mission is achieved. 

Mi Mambo! is a co-production of Pat Jaffe and Molly McBride, the Independent Television Service (ITVS) and WPBT/Miami with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The broadcast premiere will air September 24 at 7pm on Thirteen/WNET New York. The program will be distributed by PBS to public television stations nationwide beginning October 2006. 

A unique funding initiative of ITVS, Local Independents Collaborating with Stations (LINCS) gives independent producers and local public television stations the opportunity to work together. By providing matching funds to partnerships, LINCS acts as a catalyst, helping independent producers leverage the support of stations, and helping stations to access the talent of independent producers, creating programs that speak to their communities. Previously funded LINCS programs include the Academy Award-nominated documentary THE WEATHER UNDERGROUND and the Emmy Award-winning documentary BE GOOD, SMILE PRETTY. More information about LINCS and ITVS, currently celebrating its 15th anniversary, is available online at itvs.org. 

WPBT Channel 2, Florida’s first public television station, is owned and operated by the Community Television Foundation of South Florida, Inc., a private, nonprofit multi-media organization that serves the communities of South Florida. For over five decades, WPBT has captured the imagination of viewers young and old, each week reaching 1.5 million families from Martin County to the Florida Keys. Channel 2 provides an array of high-quality content from the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), programming acquired independently, as well as its own original productions, distributed both locally and nationally. WPBT is headquartered in Miami, Florida where it also maintains a news division, with additional bureaus in New York, Washington, D.C. and Chicago for its national production of the PBS series, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, an NBR Enterprises/WPBT production distributed to more than 250 public television stations nationwide. For more info, visit www.channel.org or www.pbs.org/nbr. 

PBS is a media enterprise that serves 348 public noncommercial television stations and reaches almost 90 million people each week through on-air and online content. Bringing diverse viewpoints to television and the Internet, PBS provides high-quality documentary and dramatic entertainment, and consistently dominates the most prestigious award competitions. PBS is a leading provider of educational materials for K-12 teachers, and offers a broad array of other educational services. PBS' premier kids' TV programming and Web site, PBS KIDS Online (pbskids.org), continue to be parents' and teachers' most trusted learning environments for children. More information about PBS is available at pbs.org, one of the leading dot-org web sites on the internet. 

WPBT (press inquiries & photos) Ellen Soto 305/424.4040 ellen_soto@wpbt.org
ITVS (press inquires & ITVS/LINCS info) Randall Cole 415/356.8383 x254 randall_cole@itvs.org 

MI MAMBO! Cast and Crew Biographies 
Ramon Rodriguez has been Director of the Harbor Conservatory for the Performing Arts since 1975. Ramon directs the Latin Music Workshops and is the Director of the Raices Latin Music Collection. A music theory and piano major, Mr. Rodriguez holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Manhattan School of Music. With extensive performance experience in Latin, popular and classical fields, he has performed with such artists and groups as Roberta Flack, Tipica Novel, Johnny Colon and the Symphony of the New World. In November 2000, Mr. Rodriguez was inducted into City Lore’s People’s Hall of Fame and was honored in 2006 by the City of New York as one of its Living Legends. 

Louis Bauzo has been a professional musician for over thirty years. A former member of the Tito Puente Orchestra, he has performed and recorded with Dizzy Gillespie, Machito, Mario Bauzo, Eddie Palmieri, Mongo Santamaria, Johnny Pacheco, Larry Harlow, Celia Cruz, Cachao, and Paul Simon, among others. Director of the Harbor Conservatory’s Latin Percussion Department, Mr. Bauzo is also the musical director and conductor of the Harbor Big Band as well as co-founder/curator of the RAICES Latin Music Collection. Mr. Bauzo is a recognized authority on Afro-Caribbean folklore, and has studied in Africa, Puerto Rico, Cuba and at the Julliard School of Music. Mr. Bauzo was honored as an Urban Folk Hero with his induction into City Lore’s People’s Hall of Fame in recognition of his effort in creating a home for Latin music. 

Yeissonn Villamar, well on his way to becoming a first class pianist, was an at-risk kid. The concentration and devotion required to study music gave him the courage to leave his gang. He begins the 2006 fall semester in the jazz program at the New School for Social Research in Manhattan. Lai Ara Reagans is a “heavy dancer” whose inclusion in the Harbor dance ensemble “gave her confidence in her body type.” She is attending college at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. 

Oreste Abrantes, a conga player raised by a single mother, became at-risk during the shooting of the film. He was rescued from the streets of New York by his father. Oreste is finishing high school in York, Pennsylvania, where he lives with his father and step-mother. 

Alba Rosa holds her own on the trumpet, "a man's instrument." It's hard for her to study in an apartment crowded with the kids her mother baby-sits, but she managed to get a scholarship to SUNY Purchase. While in college, Alba gives trumpet lessons to children and does back-up singing for a Salsa band in New York City on the weekends. 

Tirza Robertson, who studies dance at the Conservatory, sees herself as the new Janet Jackson. Talented, she wants to start her career the moment she finishes high school. Her mother tells her "even dancers, even entertainers, need college." By the end of the film, she has finished high school and is taking the next year off to audition, in spite of her mother’s disapproval. 

Joanna Busby, lead singer in the Harbor Latin Youth Ensemble, is currently a student at Yale University, but continues her involvement with the Harbor band, traveling by train weekly for rehearsals in Ramon’s workshop. 

Jimmy Bosch, New York’s most sought trombonist, has been a major force in the reinvigoration of the Latin Music scene. Bosch has collaborated with the most stellar figures in Salsa including, Cachao, Celia Cruz, Eddie Palmieri, Ray Barreto, the Machito Orchestra, Ruben Blades, Fania All-Start, Willie Colon, Oscar D’Leon and Marc Anthony. In addition to a rigorous performing schedule, Jimmy Bosch makes time to lead workshops on improvisation in prisons and schools. 

Patricia Lewis Jaffe, Producer 
Award-winning producer for Vladimir Horowitz, a Reminiscence, Pat Jaffe has also co-produced Marsalis on Music, the outstanding series which garnered both the Peabody and ASCAP awards. In a long association with Sony she has produced such programs as Baroque Duet with Kathleen Battle and Wynton Marsalis, Kathleen Battle and Jessye Norman Sing Spirituals and most recently Duetto, Live at the Coliseum. Her director credits include Joshua Bell, West Side Story from Central Park, Appalachian Journey and Loosely Mozart, the New Innovators of Classical Music – all broadcast on PBS. Pat has also directed music videos: Mouret’s Rondeau for Masterpiece theater, Johnny Has Gone for a Solder featuring James Taylor and Tanglewood, for NHK, Japan. 

Molly McBride, Producer 
Molly McBride has produced many television specials including Duetto, Live from the Coliseum, West Side Story from Central Park, The Three Pickers, and A New Century a New Home the Philadelphia Orchestra’s gala for the opening of a new hall, for which she won an Emmy. Her documentary producing credits include Silk Road Encounters with Yo-Yo Ma, Sumacause: A Way of Life Running Out of Time, Isn’t This A Time: Arlo Guthrie and Friends at Carnegie Hall and In The Heart of Music. 

Juan Barrera, Director of Photography 
Raised in Cuba, Barrera has received 18 Emmys and 2 Peabody awards for documentary and television concert specials such as Live From the Metropolitan Opera, Dance in America and The Newport Jazz Festival. Notable documentary projects included: The Van Cliburn Piano Competition, The Tchaikovsky Music Competition and Hate, a Bill Moyers’ special for PBS. 

Alan Miller, Editor 
Alan Miller, an Emmy award-winning editor, is Vice-President of Post Production and a principal at Moving Pictures. His work with broadcast, cable, and major music industry clients such as BMG International, RCA Records, Warner Brothers Records, VH1, MTV, ABC, CBS, NBC, A&E, HBO and Showtime has garnered him many individual awards including a National Best Editor Emmy nomination for the DuPont Award winning documentary The Home Front with Bill Moyers. Miller won a Gold Medal for Best Director at the Houston Film Festival and won a Billboard Music Video Award. He has been nominated eight times for Best Editor Monitor Awards by the International Teleproduction Society, of which, he has taken home three. Miller has an extensive list of credits including films such as Fools Fire directed by Julie Taymor for American Playhouse, and the Peabody Award-Winning Road Scholar, both of which premiered at The Sundance Film Festival. Television projects include Video Timeline for VH1, Between the Lions for PBS, Sesame English for Sesame Workshop, and the top selling long-form music video, N* Sync’s ‘N The Mix. 

Tom Lazarus, Music Producer 
In his twenty-five years as an audio engineer, Tom Lazarus has worked with a broad spectrum of artists, ranging from Ray Charles to Vladimir Horowitz, Björk to Renée Fleming, and Ornette Coleman to YoYo Ma. Working in film and video as well as audio recordings, Lazarus has traveled literally all over the globe to record in live, remote, and studio situations. In 1980 he formed Labyrinth Sound, an independent production company under whose auspices Lazarus has engineered and produced recordings for virtually every record label in the world, as large as Sony, BMG, and Polygram, and as small as New World, New Albion, and Stiff. In 1993, Labyrinth merged with Classic Sound, Inc., of which Lazarus was co-owner. Later, in 2001, he became its sole owner and CEO. Classic Sound is one of the countries premier audio mastering and post production facilities. Tom continues to thoroughly enjoy the music business. 

Nina Jaffe, Advisor 
Nina Jaffe is on the graduate faculty of the Bank Street College of Education. She is the director of FEAST: folklore education and storytelling for teachers and the author of Patakin, World Tales of Drums and Drummers, D.C. Comics’ The Wonder Woman Series for young readers. She is nationally known as a storyteller.

Posted on August 8, 2006