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Pianist Dennis Guevara ('07) Builds Career as
Go-To Accompanist

2/7/14


West Windsor, N.J. – At the age of 32, Dennis Guevara ’07 (A.S., Music) is steadily building a career as a piano and keyboard accompanist for many Jazz, Latin Jazz, World Music and Salsa artists in the tri-state region.  He says his growing success in the music business is a combination of factors.

“It’s a pyramid system. You start at the bottom and network as much as possible. Once you get established in the right circles, steady work starts to flow.” He adds that musicians must be as versatile as possible and comfortable working in a variety of styles.

It's a matter of talent -- plus a whole lot more, Guevara says. "You need to have a good attitude, an ability to work well with people, flexibility and organization.   And determination is an absolute must. Making a name in the industry takes hard work. It hasn’t been given to me,” he maintains.

Guevarra found time to return to MCCC’s Trenton Campus on Oct. 15 as the pianist for Calle Sol, a Latin Jazz quartet that also features MCCC student Ernesto Medina on congas. The performance was a highlight of the closing ceremonies for Hispanic Heritage Month. 

Guevara says that returning to MCCC was like returning home. “Mercer helped me succeed,” he says. “It was the one-to-one relationships I developed with faculty that made the difference.  It’s what I loved most about Mercer – that all the professors care about students.”

Born in Trenton, Guevara graduated from Trenton Catholic Academy.  He first came to Mercer as a business student, but then shifted to his real passion – music.  While attending MCCC, he also commuted to New York to study piano at the Boys Harbor Conservatory of Music in Harlem.

Alumnus Dennis Guevara at the keyboard
Dennis Guevara, at the piano, leads the Latin Jazz band Calle Sol during a peformance at MCCC's Trenton Campus in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.

During his years at Mercer, Guevara won the Instrumental Music Award and a scholarship to go with it. “I took advantage of the opportunities I had at Mercer and I learned a lot. It’s a full college experience, even better because at Mercer you are a person, not a number,” he observes.

Guevara continued his education at the City College of New York, earning his bachelor’s degree in Music Performance. He says that in addition to continuing to build on his skills as a musician, he transferred with another important life lesson. “I made sure my City College professors knew who I was,” he recalls.

Reflecting on the infusion of international influences in the music industry today, Guevara says that while Latin Jazz is his genre of choice, it was important not to fit himself exclusively into one category when he graduated. "Musicians need to be as diverse as possible. That was a process for me coming out of college.”

Composing and performing have been Guevara’s focus ever since. He is currently the musical director for St. David, a Latin Rock artist, and plays throughout the tri-state area as well as in Latin America. He has worked with a long list of accomplished musicians including Pablo Batista, the Grammy Award-winning bassist John Benitez, Grammy Award-winning singer Willy Torres, Venezuela percussionist Jesus “Chuito” Quintero, Hip Hop/World Music Producer Michel “Navi” Sotolongo, Justin Imperiale of Cabana Recordings, and Virtuoso percussionist Richie Flores. He has been a percussionist for Alicia Keys, Grover Washington Jr., Kirk Franklin and John Legend. In June he will perform an original composition with Pablo Batista at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. 

One of Guevara’s most memorable gigs came in January 2013 when he played with Salsa artist Frankie Negron during the Latino Ball as part of inauguration festivities for President Obama’s second term.

But performance is not Guevera’s only passion. Like the instructors from whom he honed his musical talents, he currently teaches piano at AMLA Conservatory of Music in Philadelphia. The school has been a staple in Philadelphia’s Latino community since 1986, with a goal to provide music instruction to Latino and other musicians, as well as to promote Latin music and culture at festivals and other public events.  In the summer, he is band master on the faculty of the Kimmel Center Jazz Camp of Philadelphia, an intensive summer workshop for promising musicians ages 13-20 who must audition to participate.

Guevara is also working on his first solo album, entitled “Mi Viaje” (My Journey), which combines all of the musical influences he continues to absorb. “It will definitely be something new and fresh for all music lovers,” he predicts.

He was a runner-up winner for Coverband 2011 and is proud to be a Gruv Gear and Kurzweil Keyboards endorsed artist. “I’ve been using these keyboards for many years and they continue to push the creative limits,” he says.

As his album title and recent visit to MCCC’s Trenton Campus suggest, Guevara has not forgotten his journey and enthusiastically advocates for the Mercer experience. “I always tell people about Mercer.  It offers so many programs and so many ways to succeed.  Students can truly benefit from what the college has to offer.”


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