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Nonprofit Celebrates 50th Anniversary with Grammy-Winning Musician

By Lucy Wang, Contributing Writer

Latin Grammy award-winning pianist Gabriela Montero fused art and politics at a 50th anniversary celebration Monday for Laspau, a Harvard-affiliated nonprofit that promotes higher education in the Americas.

Laspau’s Executive Director Angelica M. Natera said the event, which more than 100 people attended in Sanders Theatre, was meant to “celebrate diversity, community, and connections across the Americas.”

Montero opened her concert with a Franz Schubert piece, followed by Robert Schumann’s “Carnaval, Op. 9.” In addition, Montero also performed two improvised pieces, one of which was dedicated to her home country of Venezuela and Laspau’s 2016 Scholar of Honor, Leopoldo Lopez Mendoza, a Venezuelan politician and activist.

Mendoza, who attended the Kennedy School of Government, was sentenced to almost 14 years in jail in 2015. Mendoza’s father, Leopoldo Lopez Gil, represented him at the event.

Montero said she thinks part of her role as an artist is to advocate for social causes.

“I believe the most powerful way the artist can use their voice or their platform is by being a journalist, a photographer, of a current situation or injustice to denounce what we see that should not happen,” she said.

Gil said he enjoyed Montero’s performance.

“[Montero] is not only someone with talent, but she took that talent and worked hard and made something from it,” Gil said. “[The performance] means a lot to me.”

Attendee Cary A. Garcia Yero, a graduate student associate at Harvard’s David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, said she appreciated Montero’s political message in the performance.

“I really liked that she brought politics in her performance, and she’s being an activist for human rights in Venezuela,” she said. “I like when artists do that, it’s a responsibility to advocate for whatever they believe in.”

At the event, Montero also performed an improvised piece partly inspired by 2016 Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan, as requested by the audience.

Audience member Matthew Strassler, who is an associate in the Physics Department, said he was enticed by Montero’s improvisations.

“I’ve been going to piano concerts my entire life, and I’ve read about the great piano composers who used to do improvisations like that, but to actually hear someone do it was remarkable and hugely extremely exciting,” he said.

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