Hispanic Heritage month is recognized and celebrated from September 15 through October 15 in the United States each year. The rich and diverse tapestry of cultures that comprise Hispanic heritage allow for incredible artistic offerings always, but especially during the 2023/24 season at the Madison Symphony Orchestra and Overture Center for the Arts. Both organizations will recognize Hispanic Heritage month with performances, visual art and other programming and will continue to feature Hispanic artists and bilingual events throughout the year.

For Dr. Ida Balderrama-Trudell, Overture Center’s director of equity and innovation, along with Greg Zelek, MSO principal organist, and Elaine and Nicholas Mischler, curators of MSO’s Overture Concert Organ series, this celebratory month holds special significance. Balderrama-Trudell is of Mexican American heritage, and Zelek is of Cuban heritage. Both are excited for several opportunities for the Hispanic community in Madison to come to Overture Center to enjoy Hispanic heritage performances. The influence of the arts in their upbringings forged the paths that brought them to Overture Center and MSO and directly influenced their love of artistic endeavors. In addition to playing the organ, Zelek grew up playing both piano and guitar, and learned to sing many popular Cuban songs from his Cuban grandfather in Miami. Balderrama-Trudell comes to the arts through diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging and strives to make arts venues, experiences and employment in the arts more equitable and situated in racial and social justice.

During the week of October 4, guests will have an opportunity to engage in multiple artistic offerings that celebrate Hispanic Heritage. The first event, on Wednesday, Oct. 4, is Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Live in Concert, which is an animated movie with a live orchestra and DJ that takes the audience on a journey with Miles Morales into the Spider-verse. Later that week on October 6, Zelek will offer ¡Greg Zelek y Amigos!, a show he curated with his childhood guitar instructor that celebrates his experience growing up in Miami, and honors Hispanic and Latin composers and musicians. Zelek will be joined by Cuban musicians Magela Herrera, flute, Yarelis Gandul, percussion, and Alex Hernandez, bass, along with Colombian guitarist, Alvaro Bermudez. The performance will be bilingual, which is important to Zelek as a native Spanish language speaker.

“Having grown up in a culture and city where almost everyone around me spoke Spanish and listened to this great Latin-American music every day, I am excited to share this impactful experience from my childhood with our appreciative audience in Madison,” says Zelek. “I’m also looking forward to the opportunity to share our Overture Concert Organ with new audience members who have perhaps never heard it before but are excited to see this unique collaboration unfold. It’ll be the first of its kind!”

Later in the week, Overture Center’s Education and Engagement team will bring area school-aged guests to Overture Center to listen to Mariachi Herencia de México, which is always a popular show. The public is encouraged to buy tickets and attend the performance in the historic Capitol Theater on Saturday, Oct. 7. Prior to the performance, there will be an Hispanic Heritage month celebration with Latinos Organizing for Understanding and Development (LOUD), a statewide initiative focused on promoting collaboration between Latino arts and service organizations, artists and the communities in which they operate.

Another special offering during Hispanic Heritage month is Nicholas Rodriguez’s return to Overture Center on Thursday, Oct. 19 for a one-night-only cabaret performance of some of Stephen Sondheim’s best works. Rodriguez, a native of Texas, is also of Hispanic heritage and works towards making the arts more accessible and diverse.

On November 4, Overture welcomes Danz Trad to Kids in the Rotunda. Kids in the Rotunda is a free public program on Saturdays held on Rotunda Stage on the lower level of Overture Center. DanzTrad (Traditional Mexican Dance) is a young group created in September 2013 to give all interested people access to Mexican folkloric dance. DanzTrad intends to show and promote culture and art to younger generations. Next, on April 13, Angela Puerta joins Kids in the Rotunda with a performance incorporating Latin beats, Colombian folkloric music and other familiar songs in both English and Spanish. Kids can sing along, dance and explore a wide variety of Afro-Latino songs while having fun. Puerta’s interactive show gives kids opportunities to play maracas, shakers, tambourines and more.

Over the winter, “Tomas and the Library Lady” and “Cenicienta” will be offered bilingually as part of a focus on youth performances for Overture’s OnStage student field trip program with area schools. These performances are not open to the public but are important to increase access to the arts for local youth through the Engagement and Education team at Overture Center.

In the spring, Overture Center will also host two other Hispanic artists, and MSO will round out the 2023/24 season with a special concert honoring Hispanic Heritage. Eliades Ochoa and Magos Herrera will take the stage on Thursday, March 7 and Friday May 3, respectively. Ochoa is one of the original members of the Buena Vista Social Club of Cuban fame, and Herrera is a Mexican jazz artist based out of New York City. MSO’s season finale, Fiesta Finale on May 3-5, was born from a desire to honor Mexican and Spanish culture and music with symphony compositions and mariachi music. Double Grammy-winning Mariachi los Camperos will join MSO for this concert. Additionally, on May 4, LOUD will also be holding their annual Latino Art Fair.

“Our hope is that everyone has access to the arts and feels represented by artistic offerings at Overture Center,” says Balderrama-Trudell. “Representation is incredibly valuable in reaching younger and more diverse audiences. We want to create lifelong patrons of the arts while also creating extraordinary experiences. As a queer, Latino woman who did not speak Spanish growing up, I didn’t see myself represented in many of the arts experiences I had as a young person and adult growing up in Texas. Linda Ronstadt and Selena Quintanilla Perez were incredibly impactful for me, and I am so excited to partner my love of the arts with diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging work in my role at Overture.”