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  HOME | Arts & Entertainment

Band Leader Wins Three Grammys with Help from 53 Dreamers

MIAMI – Trumpeter John Daversa, who recently won three Grammy Awards for an album he recorded with 53 young undocumented immigrants, told EFE that he is grateful and “moved” to have been able to put the spotlight on what many people feel is the invisible drama of the people known as “Dreamers.”

Having recently returned to Miami from his hometown of Los Angeles, where he attended the Grammy Awards, Daversa emphasized the urgency of finding a pathway to citizenship for undocumented young people who are often “more American” than many others who have the proper papers.

“American Dreamers: Voices Of Hope, Music Of Freedom,” by the Dreamers and Daversa’s “big band,” won in the three categories in which it was nominated: Best Large Jazz Ensemble, Best Instrumental Arrangement, on “Stars and Stripes Forever;” and Best Improvised Jazz Solo, on “Don’t Fence Me In.”

Dreamers is the term given to young undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country with parents or other relatives when they were quite young and who – during Barack Obama’s second term as president (2012-2016) – were shielded from deportation by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that Donald Trump threatened to cancel during the election campaign and axed once he came into office.

Daversa, 46, said he was moved because after the Grammys many Dreamers told him that they felt “support” for the first time in their lives.

The big band leader has lived in Miami for six years and is an associate professor at the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music, where another recent Grammy winner works: Dafnis Prieto, who won the award for Best Latin Jazz Album for his band’s debut CD, “Back to the Sunset.”

Four Grammy Awards for the Frost School of Music is “incredible,” said Daversa, who is the head of the Department of Jazz and Studio Music.

The trumpeter believes that none of this would have been possible without the support of his school, which he thanked for being a university that supports the cause of the Dreamers.

The approximately 800,000 Dreamers who live in this country are in a kind of immigration limbo that makes it impossible for people like Saba, a singer, pianist, and a doctoral student in biology at Texas Tech University – who also speaks five languages – to even get a drivers license, said Daversa.

The trumpet player’s grandparents emigrated from Sicily to the United States and he always heard them speak to him and his parents about how much their journey meant in their lives.

The album featured the participation of 53 immigrants from 17 countries, including Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Honduras, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela. Fourteen of them played an instrument and the other 39 sang, sang backup or were responsible for the percussion.

In all, there are nine songs and nine other cuts, with titles like “Salvador,” “Maria” and “Juan Carlos” that feature the stories of some of the Dreamers in their own voices.

 

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