Bobby Sanabria Infuses Latin Jazz Into Perennial Favorite "West Side Story"

West Side Story Reimagined Bobby Sanabria

Photo credit: Sarah Escarraz

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An exciting moment for Sanabria at the Grammy awards

We also talked about how he manages to balance his family with the extremely busy schedule of his work life.

He acknowledges that he had to learn to be a good multi-tasker. From being a bandleader, performing, booking events, dealing with contracts, handling production meetings, writing arrangements, cataloging music, staying in touch with his musicians, and teaching students—he seems to be able to manage much of it. But he does know that when it becomes too much, he needs to delegate tasks to trusted people who can help him while he still supervises.

Sanabria also has some great guidelines for being a good business owner and shares some of the key things he has learned along the way….

“Musicians as well as other business owners should make sure to not sell themselves short—respect what you do. Sometimes you have to say no to a client who isn’t willing to pay the price for your services.”

Sanabria has different size groups to accommodate different clients’ needs as well as giving himself different ways to compose music by having options such as his full 19 to 21 piece big band Multiverse, to his nonet Ascensión, as well as his Quarteto Aché, and his Sexteto Ibiano.  “I’m always looking for opportunities for the big band to perform. But having smaller groups of various sizes gives me more options for work opportunities be they a small jazz club, private event, or large jazz festival.

Bobby Sanabria and Norman Lear

They also provide different, exciting musical challenges as playing in a small group is different than playing in a big band.”  

He adds that we need to admit to our mistakes. “If you apologize and own up to your mistakes, people will respect you more. It happens to everyone and sometimes it can be an expensive mistake. But if you learn from it, then there was good in it as well.”

Listen to other people’s ideas to give you “fresh eyes” on some of your business plans. “It’s great to get feedback to help guide your decisions. But make sure it’s from knowledgeable people in your field. The worst thing is to get advise form a person who is completely unqualified or knows nothing of your profession.”

“Your reputation is so important. Make sure you live up to it.  Give 100% and don’t settle for mediocrity. Go the extra mile to gain customers and keep them loyal. Always look for perfection in what you do.”

As a teacher and a bandleader he understands the value of being patient. Some students will learn at a faster pace than others and the same is true with your business and its employees. Be a mentor and give them the tools to learn. 

Believe in your convictions and be willing to fight for them. “Back in 2012 the Grammys cut out a number of categories, one being Latin jazz. I and others mounted a nationwide campaign against this unjust cutting of the category.

That took planning and working with others in a cohesive manner.  With three other colleagues I sued them in New York State Supreme Court. It forced them to reinstate the category. In other words, we won.” 

Remember that you are “always auditioning.” Be on your best behavior and treat people with respect. Don’t assume that because someone doesn’t necessarily look like how you would expect them to that they aren’t important. Don’t make hasty judgments about people.

And when you’re faced with with difficult decisions follow the advice given in West Side Story, “Be cool.”

And lastly and probably my favorite is Bobby’s advice, “…to be inspiring and passionate. It will always come through and people will find it contagious. It is what brings out the best in all of us.” 

That’s one thing I can firmly attest to just from speaking to this inspiring musical talent. I’m looking forward to hearing Sanabria’s re-imagined music to “West Side Story” for even more inspiration!

Tickets for the Saturday, March 17 premier of “West Side Story Reimagined”

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Latin Business Today Chats with Latin Jazz Legend Eddie Palmieri [podcast]

Latino Guitar Virtuoso, Argentinian Born, Hernan Romero [Video] 

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About the author

Tina Trevino

Tina Trevino is the Senior Design Director of KBL Group Intl. Ltd. in NYC and manages their large creative design team. Partner and Director Community Relations for Latin Business Today. She shares all of her insight on upcoming fashion trends for the season with her team to start the collaborative design process. The company specializes in sweaters, knits and wovens. It provides product for ladies, men, contemporary, jr, and children. Tina specializes in coordinating directly with large US retailers to design exactly into their targeted customer needs. With many years under her belt in the industry, she has also gained the ability to go beyond the fashion component and help to work through sourcing, fitting, production and merchandising issues as well.