Grammy-winner Arturo O’Farrill Coaches Students at Innovative New York City Mission Society Music Program

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GRIOT in action.

Anat Gerstein Inc.

GRIOT in action.

New York, N.Y. – Last night, Afro-Latin Jazz Alliance (ALJA) Founder and multiple Grammy Award winner Arturo O’Farrill visited the New York City Mission Society’s flagship community center, Minisink, in Harlem to coach students in an innovative music program, Global Rhythms In Our Tribe (GRIOT).

Mr. O’Farrill’s nonprofit ALJA recently partnered with the Mission Society to create GRIOT, a program that integrates music and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) to expose students to various music-related careers. Many city schools have cut or drastically curtailed music and arts programs, so much so that the city comptroller found “the provision of arts education in New York City’s public schools has become both inequitable and underfunded.”

The Mission Society and ALJA are working to remedy this cultural chasm through GRIOT’s focus on the rich cultural history of Afro Latin music. From September to June, the 10- to 18-year-old students meet afterschool twice weekly in the free program to acquire basic proficiency on a musical instrument (trombone, trumpet, or percussion); learn to read music; explore musical theory and concepts, such as the technology associated with the creation of music; and, perform in an ensemble at community events.

Both nonprofits fashioned the program to increase cross-cultural tolerance and understanding, and increase low-income and minority students’ interest in music-related STEM fields.

“Providing the highest-quality educational programming is how we are going to change the landscape of poverty and opportunity in New York City,” said Mission Society President Elsie McCabe Thompson. “Arturo O’Farrill is deeply invested in education, and teaching students to embrace music. We are proud of our partnership with his organization, and our students always look forward to his visits and what they can learn from his career.”

Arturo spent the evening talking with the kids about education, the future, and how music impacts not only their own lives, but the lives of others.

“Believe me when I tell you – every time you play an instrument, every time you pick up a trumpet, or trombone, or play the piano, you are changing the world,” said Mr. O’Farrill to the students. “You’re externalizing. You’re taking something from yourself and you’re giving it away. That’s the greatest thing you can do, give back, give away, and not take for yourself. So I commend all of you for taking up the call to be musicians.”

Students can learn more about GRIOT at:

About New York City Mission Society
The New York City Mission Society has been on the frontlines of the war on poverty for more than 200 years. Today, our progressive portfolio of education, workforce development, and cultural enrichment programs make a positive, long-term impact on youth in the City’s most underserved communities. Each year, we serve more than 18,000 children and families throughout New York City with our programs, supportive services, and community events.

About the Afro Latin Jazz Alliance
The nonprofit Afro Latin Jazz Alliance (ALJA) was established by Arturo O’Farrill in 2007 to promote Afro Latin Jazz through a comprehensive array of performance, education, and international cultural diplomacy initiatives. ALJA provides institutional support for the Grammy-winning Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, offers instruction to young students, introduces new audiences to Afro Latin Jazz, commissions emerging and established composers to enlarge the Afro Latin jazz repertoire, and maintains a world-class collection of Latin Jazz musical scores and recordings. For more information, visit

About Arturo O’Farrill
Arturo O’Farrill, pianist, composer, educator, and founder and Artistic Director of the nonprofit Afro Latin Jazz Alliance, was born in Mexico and grew up in New York City. He received his formal musical education at the Manhattan School of Music, Brooklyn College Conservatory, and the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College. As his professional career expanded, he was the pianist with the Carla Bley Big Band and then went on to develop as a solo performer with a wide spectrum of artists including Dizzy Gillespie, The Fort Apache Band, Lester Bowie, Wynton Marsalis, and Harry Belafonte. In 1995, Mr. O’Farrill agreed to direct the band that preserved much of his father’s music, the Chico O’Farrill Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra. In 2010, he traveled with the original Chico O’Farrill Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra to Cuba, returning his father’s musicians to his homeland for headlining performances at the 26th edition of the Havana International Jazz Festival.

His debut album with the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, Una Noche Inolvidable, earned a first Grammy Award nomination in 2006. His next album Song for Chico, earned Grammy for Best Latin Jazz Album in 2009. The 2015 release of The Offense of the Drum was yet another Grammy winner. Mr. O’Farrill also received the Latin Jazz USA Outstanding Achievement Award, and a Cubadisco Award for The Offense of the Drum in 2015. His Afro Latin Jazz Suite – featured on his 2015 album Cuba:The Conversation Continues earned him a third Grammy for Best Instrumental Composition this year. Currently, his Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra continues the tradition every Sunday night at Birdland, which has for decades been one of the most popular jazz clubs in the United States. He now performs throughout the world as a solo artist and with his orchestra, as well as smaller ensembles.


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