Latin Grammy Cultural Foundation Advancing Latin Music & Musicians Through Opportunity

Tanya Ramos-Puig
Courtesy of Latin Grammy Cultural Foundation
– Tanya Ramos-Puig
LINKING STUDENTS WITH OPPORTUNITY: Latin Grammy Cultural Foundation President Tanya Ramos-Puig brings years of nonprofit management experience together with her passion for Latin music and education to better the lives of talented youth and help create stars of the future.

Esmirna Ortiz grew up in what she describes as a “super poor” neighborhood in the Dominican Republic, but had access to a piano and began playing as a child. 

“My family was living for a long time on $300 a month, but I didn’t really care about that. I studied classical piano when I was eight years old, and in 2012 I got a summer scholarship and then came to Berklee College of Music in Boston with a partial scholarship. I had to sleep in the airport when I got there,” Ortiz tells Pollstar. 
But with assistance from a Latin Grammy Cultural Foundation scholarship, she was able to complete her studies after considering returning home.
“The Latin Grammy foundation has been a great support from the beginning to the end because they made sure that I finished my studies,” she says.
Oscar Quilca Barcelli hated music class in school as a child growing up in Chile. A teacher caught him chatting with a friend during class and, as a punishment, had him learn the Beatles’ “Hey Jude” and perform it in front of his classmates. 
“I learned the song by ear and went to her next class and played it,” Quilca says. “She forgot about the punishment, but not me. She was impressed and invited me to play for the school. And just like that, I started playing music and I liked it.”
Quilca applied for and won a scholarship, entered Berklee in 2016, and now performs around the globe and will be on hand for the Latin Grammy Awards Nov. 18 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Both have become noted ambassadors of Latin music around the world, thanks to the assistance they received from the Latin Grammy Cultural Foundation. The LGCF is an arm of the Latin Recording Academy that provides educational and outreach programs for the music community, and aims to elevate Latin music throughout the world.
Tanya Ramos-Puig, who was named president of the LGCF in April, has devoted her career to improving educational opportunities and life outcomes for youth in the most under-resourced communities. A tireless advocate for educational equity, she brings experience from leadership roles at Pencils of Promise, Education Pioneers and The Children’s Aid Society, among others.
“We have awarded close to 300 scholarships for our scholarship students,” Ramos-Puig says with justified pride in the program. “We have various master classes and what I like to refer to as experiential learning. And then our students receive one-on-one coaching and mentoring from within our program department. We have been really fortunate to have some great folks on our team that I like to say are poster children for what’s possible when you invest in a musical education.”
The foundation does more than provide scholarships. It operates in 24 countries in the Western Hemisphere as well as in Spain and Portugal, and, through scholarships, fellowships, grants and education programs, furthers international awareness and appreciation of the significant contributions of Latin music and its makers to the world.
“We have a number of students on our staff that have gone to Berklee and musical training and reaped the benefits of having an investment in their education scholarships,” Ramos-Puig says. “We work closely with our faculty and we ensure that those team members are working with them throughout the year. We’re constantly identifying artists that can also serve as coaches and mentors.”
Esmirna Ortiz
Courtesy of Latin Grammy Cultural Foundation
– Esmirna Ortiz
FROM THE DOMINICAN TO THE LATIN GRAMMYS: Esmirna Ortiz excels in classical piano but gained a passion for music engineering.

Among those coaches and mentors is Colombian rocker Juanes, who Ramos-Puig says has been a supporter of the foundation for countless years and now will be mentoring his namesake scholarship winner for the next 4 years.  Other contributors to the program include artists like Ángel Cucco Peña, Calle 13, Carlos Vives, Chino y Nacho, Fonseca, Jesse & Joy, Luis Fonsi, Miguel Bosé, Prince Royce, Ricky Martin and Wisin, among many others.
The LGCF provides three tiers of financial support: tuition assistance for 40 aspiring and talented music students with financial limitations but interest in Latin music; Gifted Tuition Scholarships for three talented music students, with an interest in Latin music and requiring financial assistance; and the Prodigy Scholarship, offered to one exceptional student that has previously been admitted to Berklee, is interested in Latin music but has severe financial limitations. 
Typically, the Prodigy Scholarship is co-financed by a very prominent Latin artist and the scholarship will bear his/her name. The recipient will receive an award of up to $200,000 toward a four-year 
Bachelor’s degree in music.
Ortiz is currently the front of house engineer, pianist and musical director at Lion of Judah Church in Boston, Mass., where she has worked on hundreds of events and received a scholarship in Global Leadership at Gordon-Conwell to study for a Master’s degree.  
“When you are a student and you have this support, you know that someone is investing in you,” Ortiz says. “The Latin Grammy [Recording Academy] as a whole has been more than a mentorship; they are involved in my life. I graduated in December 2017 and we still communicate and see each other at events each year. I’m about to release a new album and I have that support. I cannot even explain how much this means to me.”
Quilca is a recognized Latin jazz ambassador by LGCF and an internationally renowned drummer, composer and educator who has quickly become one of the most sought-after instrumentalists in the U.S. and South America. As an educator and composer, the Metallica fan has a vast knowledge of music theory and the creativity to break barriers. 
Oscar Quilca
Courtesy of Latin Grammy Cultural Foundation
– Oscar Quilca
bringing Peru’s music to the Masses: Oscar Quilca Barcelli poses with a quijada, or donkey’s jawbone, used as a percussion instrument in traditional Peruvian and other Latin music forms

“I started learning more about my culture, about my country, with the Latin Grammy requirements, playing Latin music,” Quilca says. “When I left Berklee until now, my past is Latin jazz, but specifically for Afro-Peruvian jazz because my goal is that people know my country for its music. I want to be as much a virtuoso musician and teacher. I want to be able to play my music everywhere and also to do master classes about Afro-Peruvian rhythms.”
For Ramos-Puig, it’s gratifying to see the music and cultures she loves become a worldwide movement. It’s marked a change in the way not only the music, but its people, have been able to step on the global stage on their own terms. 
“I think it’s heartening to see that Latin music has become far more a part of the mainstream,” she says. “There was a time many years ago when an artist who was of Latin descent was expected to ‘cross over.’ If they were going to be part of the mainstream, they would have to sing in English, as opposed to their native tongue. That is not what we’re seeing as of late. On the contrary, you have numerous artists that are insisting they will only sing in their native tongue. And it’s been so well-received.
“I’ve said this time and time again, music is a universal language. And yes, I’m biased for Latin music! It has so much energy, and it’s just such a connecting factor for people. During this pandemic, being the backdrop of what kept many people sane during the isolation, Latin music really kind of bubbles up for many.”