I traveled to Georgetown to hear the Cuban virtuoso pianist Aldo López-Gavilán, a remarkable talent who played at Carnegie Hall in 2012 as part of the Voces de Latino America festival. He’s toured widely in South America and featured in films and collaborations with classical and jazz composers and orchestras such as the Harlem Quartet. He’s also written the music for the award-winning HBO documentary The Poet of Havana. Under the direction of Thomas Wilkins, he’s toured North America. At age five, Aldo composed his first musical. Both parents are internationally acclaimed classical musicians, so it was no wonder when Aldo expressed himself through the keys.

While on tour in Cuba, the Georgetown couple who made this concert (and a private concert) possible, Micki and Nelson Avery, learned of him: incredible generosity and a love for classical and jazz music led them to invite him for performances in central Texas. No big concert promotion agency was involved, but luckily, I heard about it through the Central Texas Philharmonic organization.  What makes Central Texas Philharmonic unique is how the non-profit disperses its donations. 86% of funds go towards performances, including musicians fees, licensing, management, technical support and ticketing, insurance, etc. 12% goes to administration and 2% to the executive director, promotion, and ticket processing. It is clearly a labor of love for those involved in the organization.

The event took place at the Klett Performing Arts Center in Georgetown. Conductor and musical director Steven Sanders led the lively program selection of Latin rhythms and classic contemporary American music by George Gershwin. The Central Texas Philharmonic (CTP) has blossomed under his direction into a vibrant symphonic organization since the merger of the Round Rock Symphony and Georgetown Symphony Society in 2018.

Opening the set, the Central Texas Philharmonic orchestra played a Gershwin number, Cuban Overture, a snappy, unstereotypical piece. Then Aldo appeared in a striking purple blazer with a Cheshire cat grin that lasted the entirety of his dramatic performance of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and a few original compositions that followed.

In Memorium of Gershwin’s 100th anniversary, we were privy to the tribute to one of his most excellent compositions. Aldo jammed the keys with a passion I haven’t witnessed from a performer since Elton John in the 70s-1980s. His celebration of life – from a honky tonk rendition to a full-blown piano solo that made the orchestra members smile, took the audience by surprise. He encouraged everyone to dance, get up, clap, or snap their fingers, which they did.

The audience was filled with adoring classical music aficionados who traveled far and wide. I spoke with people from Sun City, Leander, Central Austin, and Bourne who came for the 4:00 pm performance. The boomer crowd wore their fancy clothes for this event, and the auditorium sparkled with a rainbow of glitter and high style.

I had to leave during Intermission and missed the second half of the show, but as soon as my meeting was over, I downloaded several of Aldo’s music videos. Here’s one of them he performed at the Newport Jazz Festival. The song Playgrounds, whichhe wrote for his daughter is one he performed at the Klett. It reminds me a little of Keith Jarrett’s style of piano jazz. ​​https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8l20NeZKxjk

For events and information about the Central Texas Philharmonic contact: https://www.centraltexasphilharmonic.org/

By Elise Krentzel

Elise Krentzel is the author of the bestselling memoir Under My Skin - Drama, Trauma & Rock 'n' Roll, a ghostwriter, book coach to professionals who want to write their memoir, how-to or management book or fiction, and contributing author to several travel books and series. Elise has written about art, food, culture, music, and travel in magazines and blogs worldwide for most of her life, and was formerly the Tokyo Bureau Chief of Billboard Magazine. For 25 years, she lived overseas in five countries and now calls Austin, TX, her home. Find her at https://elisekrentzel.com, FB: @OfficiallyElise, Instagram: @elisekrentzel, LI: linkedin.com/in/elisekrentzel.