Freeport Arts

Grant awarded to Freeport’s Luis Cordero


Long Island Traditions is pleased to announce Luis Cordero has received a New York State Council for the Arts Apprenticeship Grant, which is a highly competitive award.

The NYSCA Apprenticeship Program seeks to safeguard and revitalize the folk arts and cultural heritage of communities. Through year-long apprenticeships, the grant receives funding from the state legislature to support folk arts practitioners and their mentees to preserve and bolster traditional cultural expressions. Previous grantees sponsored by Long Island Traditions include Theo Torres, a Peruvian composer, musician, and teacher fluent in many musical styles.

 Cordero is a multitalented musician based in Freeport. Originally from Tenares in the Dominican Republic, Cordero moved to Santo Domingo, where he formed his first band. He then moved to New York in 1978, and has been recording his own unique music since 1987. He has written over 300 songs, many of them humorous, romantic, and topical. He has performed in churches, nightclubs, and other venues, and became a popular musician in the local scene.

 With this grant, Luis Cordero will mentor his son, Edy Cordero, his daughter, Rosa Reyes, and her husband, Felix Reyes in the Dominican traditions of bachata and merengue.

 Bachata is traditionally a highly poetic, narrative ballad song form, usually accompanied by a steel-stringed guitar. Merengue comes from the rural, northern valley region around the city of Santiago, called the Cibao. The style typically consists of stringed instruments like guitar, tres, or cuatro as well as the güira scraper and the two-headed tambora drum. Luis taught himself these styles from a young age.

 “Since I was very young, I have always loved music,” he says, “I would always hear my father singing and those songs stuck in my head. I would learn them and sing them from the time I was very young. Later, when I began to grow up, I bought a guitar and I learned to play on my own. I would go to where the great musicians were playing. I didn't go to dance. I only went to watch how they played and to learn what they did, to ask them questions. And little by little, I learned.”

 Luis plays bachata and merengue with his group, Los Amigos del Amargue, alongside his children Edy Cordero and Rosa Reyes, and Rosa’s husband, Felix Reyes. The family members and mentees will focus on their roles within bachata and merengue for the NYSCA grant. Edy, who has performed with his family for over 30 years, will focus on tambora drum and composition. Rosa, who has also performed with her father since she was young, will focus on composition, dance performance characteristics of each music form, and hand-held percussion instruments such as congas and maracas. Felix will focus on the tambora drum, which he has played for over 25 years, and the requinto, an instrument similar to the guitar. All these instruments are important to bachata and merengue.

 All the apprentices will learn how to compose a song based on their observations of life in the Dominican Republic today. Over the year, Edy, Rosa, and Felix will learn Luis’s songwriting style and the origins of bachata and merengue. They will explore original bachata and merengue compositions by Luis, and compose a song about the Dominican Republic today. The apprenticeship will culminate in a final performance at a local cultural site.