.Local Music Teachers to Perform at Carnegie Hall

A musical duo who also teaches in the Pajaro Valley Unified School District has been selected by an international competition to perform at the prestigious Carnegie Hall in New York City.

Amalia Diaz and Camilo Ortiz have been playing together as “Camilo y Amalia” for years, having first met while teaching with Youth Orchestra Salinas. They now teach with PVUSD through El Sistema Santa Cruz/Pajaro Valley, a nonprofit aiming to bring music education and performance to students.

In 2019 Diaz received an email about Progressive Musicians, a competition aiming to help artists “achieve their goals and advance artistically.” Musicians go through two rounds of competition, receiving feedback about their work from a professional jury.

“That’s what caught my attention,” Diaz said. “We hadn’t had any professional feedback, and it’d be super cool to have it from a jury in New York. It’d take things to another level.”

Progressive Musicians is open to artists of all ages in three categories: Children, Amateur and Professional. Winners in each category are invited to perform at the Winner’s Recital at Carnegie Hall.

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“We’re teachers, we play weddings and events,” Ortiz said. “We’ve played our whole life, but not like this. The quality of the recital is going to be very high.”

Ortiz said that the opportunity is not only good for their career, but also for the students they teach. 

“We always try to tell the kids, music is great for you, not just because you’re learning songs,” he said. “It can open your eyes and the world to you. I feel like this is a validation of that message for them: You don’t know what kinds of opportunities music can open for you.”

Added Diaz: “I love the fact that we’re teachers in Watsonville, and it’s something people don’t expect to happen. People should know there are good musicians and programs for our students right here.”

El Sistema Santa Cruz/Pajaro Valley was founded in 2012, though the nonprofit originated in Venezuela in 1975. Diaz and Ortiz are both originally from nearby Columbia. To their surprise, major networks in the South American country have embraced their story, reporting on the duo’s upcoming concert.

“There is so much bad news coming out of Columbia … so it’s a piece of good news they want to share with the country,” Ortiz said. “It’s a piece of light amongst the craziness.”

El Sistema has even more good news: For the second time, a workshop they created will be presented at the International Society of Music Education’s annual conference. The event is currently scheduled to be virtual, but, if Covid restrictions improve, there is a chance it could be held in person in Australia. 

“If we could attend, our idea was to bring some kids from Watsonville with us,” Ortiz said. “That’s what we want to show them: Music can take you to so many places.”

For information on Camilo y Amalia, including their upcoming debut album “Senderos,” visit their website.

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