• Alexis Alabado

Meet Leslie Pozo: Music to Last a Lifetime

Updated: Sep 26, 2019

Music to Last a Lifetime

By Alexis Alabado

Leslie Pozo is the head instructor of Harmony Project Phoenix’s Orquesta Latino Caribeña. With fourteen students ranging from 8 to 16 years old, the group plays traditional music that is a fusion of styles from the Caribbean, Central America and Latin America. Rehearsals run every Saturday for two hours and include a variety of instruments and Latin genres.

Pozo said he’s always been musically inclined since birth. He is originally from Maracaibo, the capital city of Zulia state in Venezuela. The first instrument he ever got his hands on was the mandolin, a stringed musical instrument in the lute family that commonly has four sections of double metal strings tuned in unison. The mandolin taught him traditional folk songs and styles. At age 16, Pozo learned how to play the trombone, his first symphonic instrument.

Now, if you were to ask him what instrument he plays, he can play almost any band instrument at an intermediate level, but loves the piano, bass and drums.

Pozo said he has been teaching for 25 years, always in music. In Venezuela, he created Orquesta Latino Caribeña Infantil for El Sistema, a music education program for children with the fewest resources and the greatest need.

“I developed the program Alma Llanera to teach our Venezuelan traditional music to the kids,” he said. “We already had symphonic music, so the project was based on how to compose and arrange solo music. The idea was to take traditional Western music of the country and take it to a symphonic environment and elevate its status.”

And elevate it he has. This is Pozo’s second year instructing Orquesta Latino Caribeña, but he has been working with Harmony Project Phoenix since 2015. Some of his favorite highlights were seeing his students perform at the Mesa Arts Center, the Tempe Center for the Arts, and the Botanical Gardens.

Directing the Orquesta Juvenil Latino Caribeña in the Harmony Project Phoenix

Pozo said that no matter what a teacher may do in education, you’re always learning.

“I’m very passionate about how the brain works and love neuroscience,” Pozo said. “I love to see the kids working and their excitement to when they reach a point where they can play a song, and you can see the excitement on their faces. That’s the best kind of payment.”

Pozo said research that has been done in music shows that it is the only discipline that connects the left and right hemispheres of the brain, implying that students who play an instrument have better grades and develop deeper thinking skills.

For Pozo, he sees no other subject more important than music for the development of a child.

“Music should be not only encouraged, but mandatory in all schools,” Pozo said. “To give all kids the opportunity to make music. Music is unique, and this has been demonstrated.”

Seeing the students grow not only in their musicianship but professionally is a long-term game, but one Pozo wouldn’t want to miss.

“We don’t want them to become musicians. We want them to become better human beings through music — but if they become a musician, we have won twice.”

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