Hispanic Heritage Month: Meet Omar Ledezma, Jr.
Percussionist, Grammy Winner, Educator
Born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela, Grammy Award–winning singer and percussionist Omar Ledezma Jr. has been playing professionally since the age of 17. Ledezma graduated from one of the most prestigious law schools in Caracas in 1995, but three years later, he packed one bag and one drum to move to Boston to study at the Berklee College of Music. After graduating in 2005, he moved to the Bay Area, where today he teaches at the Community Music Center.
Ledezma has played, recorded, and toured with local and international artists and founded the Ka-Hon Ensemble, a group dedicated to the wooden box percussion instrument and one of the biggest stars of San Francisco Symphony’s Adventures In Music program. In 2014, he won a Grammy with the globally acclaimed Pacific Mambo Orchestra. Ledezma is also a music accompanist for the San Francisco Ballet Dance In Schools and Communities (DISC) education program and is an exclusive artist with Pearl Percussion, Pinchclip, ELH Cowbells, Cympad, Hansenfutz, Remo heads, Kandu Cajons, Vater, and Soultone Cymbals.
How has your heritage influenced your work as an artist and educator?
When I arrived in the Bay Area 15 years ago, I noticed a lack of knowledge about the Caribbean culture, so immediately I added all my culture into my repertoire for curriculum offerings across the San Francisco Bay Area. Same thing with the musical projects. When we were recording the Grammy-winning album Pacific Mambo Orchestra in 2013, I wanted to leave my mark of this Caribbean heritage in my playing; I guess it worked! Now with SF Ballet’s DISC program, I want to leave the same mark of my culture as a Venezuelan artist in the program for current and future students to learn from, and fellow teaching artists to share too.
As a DISC music educator working with children, what is your hope for the next generation of musicians, especially in the context of the pandemic?
My hope for this next generation of musicians is what every music teacher wishes for their students—that they continue what we started, and that they can become musicians, be that professionally or simply producing beautiful music for the world to enjoy. During the pandemic, we were forced to use technology to record and teach from our little home studios, streaming, and digital music platforms to share and sell, and social media to promote. I hope the next generation can continue our work, respecting the culture and promoting art, and use all these digital tools to release their music. And I hope they can finally perform it in a live environment, and establish the real connection with the public they reached over the computer.
What advice would you have for an aspiring musician?
My only advice is to never give up your dreams and work hard. The results are extremely soul-filled.
Thank you to Omar for sharing his story and his love of music with Bay Area children for the past 15 years. We are better, as an organization and as a community partner, because of passionate artists like Omar.
Header Image: Dance in Schools and Communities Music Accompanist Omar Ledezma, Jr. leads a music lesson on SFUSD’s SF Loves Learning on KTVU Plus // © San Francisco Ballet