Sun-Sentinel.com Please register or login Subscribe to paper  
HOME | NEWS | SPORTS | ENTERTAINMENT | SHOPPING | CLASSIFIED | BUSINESS | WEATHER
South Florida 247 The Latest News
 
  
   Sponsored by
FEATURES
INSIDE FEATURES

Lifestyle
Arts
Food & Recipes
Home & Garden
Travel
Books

 Broward County
 Palm Beach County
 Miami-Dade County
Florida
Nation/World
Cuba
Education
Lottery
Obituaries
Scripps development

WEATHER
Hurricane
Hurricane weblog
Web cam

SPORTS
Miami Dolphins
Florida Marlins
Miami Heat
Florida Panthers
University of Miami
High school
College
Season Ticket weblog

BUSINESS
Real estate news

EDITORIAL
Letters
Chan Lowe cartoons
FEATURES
Lifestyle
Arts
Food & Recipes
Home & Garden
Travel
Books

HEALTH & SCIENCE

COMMUNITY

NEWSLETTERS

CORRECTIONS

OTHER SERVICES
Archives
Customer service
News by e-mail

Maria Letona has found her mission as an advocate of Cuban composer Rene Touzet

By Lawrence A. Johnson
Classical Music Writer
Posted September 4 2005

  E-mail story
  Print story

MOST E-MAILED
(last 24 hours)
1. Dog gone
2. South Florida levee system safer than New Orleans, experts say
3. A message for looters
4. Catastrophe
5. Orlando pastor opens dog-friendly church
See the complete list ...

Click here to subscribe Subscribe today to the Sun-Sentinel
and find out how to get one week extra!
Click here or call 1-877-READ-SUN.

 
By the time she was in her teens, Letona had embarked on her own revolutionary insurgency. "My dad was way too strict for me and I started rebelling," she says. "By this time I hated the piano and I never practiced."

At the age of 17, Letona ran away from home and joined a popular local Latin jazz band. "They asked, `Do you play salsa?'" and I said, "Yeah!' I knew zero. I was so square, all I knew was Beethoven."

Letona performed with the band for two years throughout the New Orleans area, frequently as a warm-up for Celia Cruz. Soon her gypsy existence led her to Boston, where her older sister lived. And Letona became, in her words, "a normal person," working temp and secretarial jobs. Yet gradually she began to feel the pull of her early classical training. She bought an old upright and resumed playing again.

A piano teacher she found in the yellow pages encouraged her to get a bachelor's degree in music. Told that the best place in Boston was the New England Conservatory of Music, Letona became obsessed with gaining entrance to the prestigious school.

"When I went into the building and heard all these pianos, violins, and cellos warming up I thought, `What the hell am I doing here? I'm 25 years old and I don't know how to play piano.' My letters of recommendation were from my boss: `Maria is an excellent receptionist.' I'm a loser!"

The fortune cookie

Much to her own amazement, Letona thrived at the conservatory, earning a reputation as a relentless performer and dedicated student. She also became very involved in contemporary music, performing works of John Cage and György Ligeti under the composers' coaching.

After getting her bachelor's and master's degrees, Letona was undecided about her next move until dining with friends at a Chinese restaurant. She opened a fortune cookie that said, "You are headed to the land of palm trees and sunshine." She told herself, "That's it! That's my destiny. I'm going to Florida!"

"She's got a very vivacious and positive personality," said Thomas Sleeper, one of her mentors at the University of Miami Frost School of Music, who wrote his piano work The Cursive Images for her. "She plays with a lot of energy and verve. ... She really makes things sparkle."

In addition to getting her doctorate at UM, Letona met her husband in Miami, and now has two children. Having achieved a balance in her personal life, she feels her varied experiences make her uniquely suited to her role as Touzet's advocate, bridging the jazz and classical worlds just as he did. She will present a recital at Barry on Nov. 5, which will include works of Touzet.

"Beethoven has a swing and Mozart has a swing," says Letona. "I feel it really helps if you experience the popular music side. You know, teachers always say, `Sing, make the piano sing!' But I also always tell my students, `Make the piano dance.'"

Lawrence A. Johnson can be reached at ljohnson@sun-sentinel.com or 954-356-4708.
 




Click here to subscribe Subscribe today to the Sun-Sentinel
and find out how to get one week extra!
Click here or call 1-877-READ-SUN.



COLUMNISTS

Ralph De La Cruz Ralph De La Cruz
Lifestyle Columnist

Bar has taken shots and earned cheers

Oline H. Cogdill Oline H. Cogdill
Mystery columnist

Book season starting to gear up

Marci Shatzman
Palm Beach County western communities

Showtime seating

Sherri Winston
Lifestyle Columnist

Magaly Morales
Spanish-language TV Writer

Thomas Swick
Travel Columnist

Robert Haehle
Gardening tips

Deborah Hartz
Food editor

Rod Hagwood
On fashion

Lisa Huriash
Kosher connection

Charlyne Varkonyi Schaub
Home & Garden

Chauncey Mabe
Book Editor





  shopping

Questions or comments? | Paid archives | Start a newspaper subscription | How to advertise | Privacy policy
Copyright 2005, Sun-Sentinel Co. & South Florida Interactive Inc.
Sun-Sentinel.com, 200 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33301



Click Here