Sierra wins Latin Grammy for guitar sonata

Composer Roberto Sierra, the Old Dominion Foundation Professor in the Humanities in the College of Arts and Sciences, won the 2021 Latin Grammy Award for Best Classical Contemporary Composition with “Music from Cuba and Spain, Sierra: Sonata para Guitarra.”

The 22nd annual Latin Grammy Awards were broadcast live Nov. 18, but when his award was announced, Sierra wasn’t watching. He was at home, eating dinner with his wife – leftovers, in fact – and had forgotten all about it.

“I knew the piece was nominated,” said Sierra, a two-time Grammy nominee. “I said, ‘Oh, that’s today. Let me see who won.’ I had my iPad, so I opened the New York Times and I said, ‘Oh my God, I am there.’’’

Sierra’s four-part composition, “Sonata para Guitarra,” along with 16 other selections, was performed by Cuban-born guitarist Manuel Barrueco on the album, which explores the musical connections between Cuba and Spain.

“He’s a stellar performer, one of the main guitar players of the 20th century,” Sierra said. “I wrote this sonata for him. I’m Puerto Rican, not Cuban, but we are part of the same part of the world, meaning the Caribbean. It is a wonderful recording.”

Sonata para Guitarra” is of a piece with the work Sierra has been creating for the last decade, mining the memories of his youth in Puerto Rico and transforming those particular experiences and sensations into something more abstract and universal, and ultimately transcendent.

The album, which was released Dec. 31, 2020 by Tonar Music, is available via compact disc, digital download and on streaming services such as iTunes and Spotify.

Sierra says that while he appreciates the award – he and Barrueco were also nominated for Best Classical Album – he is more focused on creating the next composition and refining his craft.

“It’s wonderful to have the recognition,” he said. “But your life doesn’t change. You just keep doing the same things you were doing before. As long as I am alive, I will keep working and keep trying to make my own art better.”

However, he does plan to get together next week with his wife, daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren to celebrate the Latin Grammy win. He’s not sure yet where he will put the physical award, once it arrives.

“Maybe in my studio?” he said. “Or maybe I’ll give it to the grandkids.”

Read this story in The Cornell Chronicle.

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		 Roberto Sierra