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Ruth Glasser Oral History

Ruth-Glasser-Oral-History

The Ruth Glasser Oral History collection consists of forty audiocassettes dating from 1988 to 1993. The interviews were conducted while Ms. Glasser wrote her book, "My Music is My Flag: Puerto Rican Musicians and Their New York Communities 1917-1940."

Ms. Glasser interviews prominent Puerto Rican musicians and their relatives. This collection includes insight from renowned artists, such as Bobby Capó and Johnny Rodriguez, and their relatives, such as Victoria Hernández, sister to composer Rafael Hernandez and owner of Almacenes Hernandez, possibly the first Puerto Rican-owned music store in New York City.

Throughout the oral histories the interviewees discuss their mostly humble origins and their struggles and triumphs in the diaspora. Ms. Glasser’s material explores the relationship between social history and the different forms of Puerto Rican cultural expression.

To access Centro’s finding aid, please visit the Ruth Glasser: Puerto Rican Musicians Oral History Project.

Items in this audio collection

Mike Amadeo Interview, Tape 1

Miguel Angel (Mike) Amadeo moved to the Bronx, New York in 1948 as a young teen. He found work with Bartolo Alvarez at Casa Latina, a popular music store in the El Barrio neighborhood. Al Santiago, Alvarez’s nephew, later hired Amadeo to work in his Bronx music store, Casalegre, and his music label, Alegre. In 1969, Amadeo purchased the music store Casa Hernandez from Victoria Hernandez,…

Hermanos Los Coen (Cohen) Interview, Tape 1

Augusto Coen (1895-1970) was born in Puerto Rico. Having received music lessons at a young age, Mr Coen was adept at guitar, trumpet and other band instruments. Economic hardship in Puerto Rico forced Mr. Coen to move to New York City where he worked as a postman during the day and a musician at night. Mr. Coen’s first jobs in music were working with African American popular orchestras since…

Mario Bauzá  Interview, Tape 1

Ruth Glasser interview with Afro-Cuban jazz musician Mario Bauzá. Throughout the interview, Mario talks about his life experiences, music and general musings. He discusses being raised by his affluent godmother and godfather in Cuba. Growing up, Mario attended a symphonic music conservatory where he distinguished himself at a young age as a gifted clarinet and saxophone player. He discusses…

Mario Bauzá  Interview, Tape 2

Continuation of Ruth Glasser interview of Mario Bauzá. He talks about his style and the people who influenced him. A talented section player who rarely soloed, Mario Bauzá's main importance to music was behind the scenes as one of the main instigators of Afro-Cuban jazz, the potent mixture of Latin rhythms with jazz.

Mario Bauzá (4/28/1911 - 7/11/1993) an Afro-Cuban jazz musician who had a…

Mario Bauzá Interview, Tape 3

Final part of three-part Ruth Glasser interview of Afro-Cuban jazz musician Mario Bauzá. During the interview Mario talks about racism in the music industry and the difficulties he had with white musicians. He goes on to say that what you saw on the stage was not truthful, there was no integration off the stage. Later during the interview Mario talks about his personal life.

Mario Bauzá…

Bobby Capó Interview, Tape 1

Ruth Glasser interview with Puerto Rican musician and composer, Bobby Capó. Mr. Capó discusses the origins of his musical style and his career. Felix Manuel Rodriguez Capó, known as Bobby Capó, was born on January 1, 1922 in Coamo, Puerto Rico. After touring as a substitute singer for Cuarteto Victoria, led by Rafael Hernández, Capó came to New York in…

Bobby Capó Interview, Tape 2

Continuation of Ruth Glasser interview with Puerto Rican musician and composer, Bobby Capó. He talks about New York City’s melting pot effect on Latin music and extrapolates on the different origins of Hispanic music genres. He offers stories of his life on the road and performing in New York City. He includes stories on fellow musicians, such as Rafael Hernández and El…

Bobby  Capó Interview, Tape 3

Final part of three-part Ruth Glasser interview with Puerto Rican musician and composer, Bobby Capó. The interview centers on his friendships and personal thoughts on fellow musicians. He discusses the trajectory of Hispanic musicians in the USA and the dynamics of "cross-over" artists. He includes an introspective take on the impact of Afro-Cuban jazz. Felix Manuel RodriguezCapó,…

Victoria  Hernández Interview, Tape 1

Ruth Glasser interview with Victoria Hernández. Throughout the interview Victoria Hernández discusses her life in East Harlem and her arrival to New York City in 1919 from Puerto Rico’s “campos.” Ms. Hernández talks about her brother, Rafael Hernández's rise as a musician, his life, influence, marriages, death and legacy. She reads from newspaper…

Victoria Hernández Interview, Tape 2

Continuation of Ruth Glasser interview with Victoria Hernández. Ms. Hernández is heard showing photographs of her travels throughout Latin America, her charity work and as a speaker at different events. They discuss the work and influence of Puerto Rican musicians. Ms. Hernández discusses the controversial nature of claiming ownership of plena songs, most of which are old,…

Victoria Hernández Interview, Tape 3

Continuation of Ruth Glasser interview with Victoria Hernández. Ms. Hernández talks about the music groups she enjoyed while growing up. She discusses Hispanic “big bands” in New York City and their appeal. She provides her opinion on various matters, musical and the like. Ms. Glasser also talks about her brother and his experiences. She talks about living in East Harlem…

Victoria Hernández Interview, Tape 4

The final part of Ruth Glasser interview with Victoria Hernández. Ms. Hernández shares her personal thoughts on her brother’s fellow musicians. She continues to show Ms. Glasser memorabilia and sheet music, pointing out differences between genres and the national origin of the written music. Talks about her brother’s musical trajectory and the origin of Cuarteto Victoria.…