At 95, Angela Alvarez is fulfilling a lifelong dream that began in her native Cuba, where she learned to sing and play the piano early on, and later took on the guitar and started writing her own songs.
What began as a grandson’s personal mission to preserve his Nana’s unpublished musical legacy turned into a passion project that led to an album, a documentary, a role in a Hollywood movie, and ultimately, a Latin Grammy nomination for best new artist. Best new artist at the age of 95 - how fabulous is that?
When she was about to graduate high school and her father asked her what she wanted to do next, she didn’t hesitate: “I want to be a singer.” Not finding that kind of life suitable for his only daughter, he said, “No. You sing for the family, but not for the world.”
“I loved him very much and I obeyed him - I did not insist,” Alvarez says, but music was always there for her, as it helped her cope with the ups and downs of life. Over the years she wrote about 50 songs and listening to many of these songs while growing up was especially impactful on her grandson Carlos José Alvarez, a professional composer and producer based in Los Angeles who attributes his love of music largely to his Nana, as her grandchildren call her.
As Angela was getting on in years without ever recording any of her work, he had an “epiphany” that made him fly to Louisiana (where she now lives) to document each and every one of her songs, for “the legacy of our family.”
With his grandmother on board, he started calling musicians he knew to help bring the project to life. “These are friends of mine and people that I admire, the best of the best,” Carlos says of the professionals he recruited. “I play them her music and they just can’t believe it. They’re like, ‘We’re in!’ They were blown away. They were like, ‘These are her songs? These sound like classics, but I’ve never heard them before!'” So, with the talented ensemble of musicians supporting Angela, and album was duly recorded.
As for how Angela Alvarez ended up with a nomination to the Latin Grammys in one of the most coveted categories, her grandson explains that it was a friend's idea. “He said, ‘You know how fitting and incredible it would be if she was nominated for best new artist at her age? You know the message that that would send to the world?'”
Well, by now you already know that she did indeed get the coveted nomination. Now both grandmother and grandson plan to attend the Latin Grammy celebrations in Las Vegas the third week of November - where Alvarez is scheduled to perform at the Best New Artists showcase on the 15th, and attend the awards ceremony on the 17th.
We'll let you know how she gets on.