Miquel de Leon

Raised in a musical Mexican American family, Miguel de León remembers connecting deeply to the sounds of music he heard around him while growing up. As a child he responded strongly to the top hits on the radio and to the music of famous Mexican artists in his parents' record collection, and music always was young Miguel's favorite part of school and religious services. His large extended family often came together to celebrate every holiday and everyone's birthdays, and as a special treat, mariachis were a part of some of the festivities. Today, Miguel feels fortunate to have heard the glorious sounds of live music at family parties. To this day, the sound of mariachis playing traditional Mexican songs holds a very special place in his heart.

Miguel's strong affinity for Brazilian music began when he was a teenager. After hearing recordings by Sergio Mendes & Brasil 66 and really connecting with this music, he started buying all the Brasil 66 albums he could find. The Brazilian rhythms captivated Miguel. Already bilingual, he discovered through these records how similar Portuguese was to Spanish, and without any formal study, he easily learned to pronounce it and understand many phrases and themes of the songs.

In the early 1980s, Miguel listened to some albums by popular Brazilian artists of the time, and as soon as the needle settled into the groove, he was hooked-the more he listened, the more he craved. Since then, collecting Brazilian music has become a kind of quest for him. In 1985, Miguel made his first trip to Brazil and was absolutely enraptured. The people, the culture, the spectacular vistas, and of course the music. (Right away he stopped at a record shop; he bought so many albums in Brazil that he had to pay for excess baggage on his return.)

A very active performer in both church music and choral ensembles, Miguel also has appeared in numerous operettas, zarzuelas, and musical theater productions. In addition, he has developed a solo show featuring many different styles of Latin American music. His songs range from rhythmic salsa music and classic boleros to the smooth sounds of samba and bossa nova. While performing Miguel makes use of his talent for languages; for example, he might sing one verse of "The Girl from Ipanema" or "Corcovado" ("Quiet Nights") in Portuguese, and then switch to Spanish or English for the next verse. Songs such as these are easily performed in two languages, since both English and Portuguese versions are widely known. Miguel's self-produced CD, Minha Voz/Mi Voz, features popular Latin American songs sung in Spanish, Portuguese, and English.

Miguel de León's goal is to use his gift of music as a means to bridge the gap between different musical styles and languages. Continually exploring and learning about the world of music, Miguel clearly sees that despite the apparent differences across musical forms, there are many thematic similarities. He believes the underlying theme of music is love, that music is a force that can bring people together.