Music and Identity

When Words Fail, Music Speaks

Juan Álamo, an associate professor of music and director of both the percussion and global rhythms ensembles at UNC-Chapel Hill, has been captivated by music since he was five-years-old. He attended a school that specialized in music in Puerto Rico, where he grew up, and eventually discovered the marimba, which he has been playing for 27 years.

In 2022, Álamo was appointed to the William Wilson Brown Jr. Professorship in Latin American Studies within the UNC Institute for the Study of the Americas. Álamo also published “Four Mallet Music for the Modern Marimba Player,” which is part of the curriculum for universities across the nation and in Europe and Central and South America.

Álamo’s work as a composer, like his work on stage, is rooted in the connection between music and feeling.

“Writing music is a journey into the unknown,” Álamo said. “If you’re a writer, you will use poetry. If you are a painter, you paint. To me, music is a platform that I use to share my thinking, my ideas, who I am, what I see, what I understand, what I’m learning, what I’m still trying to figure out.”

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