Jesse Bermudez AMLA founder and Music Legend
With a heavy heart, we say goodbye to the legendary community leader, musician, and educator Jesse Bermudez. Jesse Bermudez was the founder of the Asociación de Artistas y Musicos Latinoamericanos, also known as AMLA. His work to create a space where Latin music can thrive and be accessible through artist support and education lives on through AMLA at Esperanza.
“In 2006, Bermudez partnered with Esperanza’s Reverend Luis Cortes to take AMLA to a new level. Now called Artístas y Músicos Latino Americanos (still AMLA), it is run out of Esperanza. Still, it has kept with the original mission of spreading Latin music and culture on a regional scale.” (Nigel Thompson Philly salsa legend Jesse Bermudez passes away at 79 years old | Al Día News (aldianews.com)
We are saddened to lose a pillar in our community but proud to continue the work he set forth. His legacy lives on through AMLA, Siempre Salsa, and the many AMLA students who have become musicians who are part of the cultural fabric of our city. We thank Jesse Bermudez for his music and life’s dedication to the Latino community in Philadelphia.
Rest In Power.
Jesse Bermudez, the co-Founder of Siempre Salsa Philly, has been at the center of Philadelphia’s Latin music scene for the past 40 years. Before becoming a pioneering Latin music DJ, he began his career as a performer with the doo-wop, Vessolaire. In the mid-1970s, Jesse turned his attention exclusively toward Philadelphia’s Latin music market as a performer and promoter. He produced the area’s most memorable salsa concert, “Salsa con Salsa,” featuring legendary artists Celia Cruz, Willie Colon, and Hector Lavoe at the Philadelphia Civic Center.
In 1982, Mr. Bermudez founded Philadelphia’s Asociación de Musicos Latinos Americanos (AMLA), which led to the creation of the AMLA School of Performing Arts, later known as Artistas y Musicos Latinoamericanos. Under Mr. Bermudez’s leadership, AMLA became the “gold standard” for Latin music education throughout the United States. He created a cadre of professional musicians and international recording artists, including Edgar Joel, Anthony Colon, Ray Viera, Carlos Sanchez, Luis Figueroa, Elio Villafranca, Elvis Bonilla, Pablo Batista, and Foto Rodriguez, to name but a few. At the age of six, Luis Figueroa started his musical education under the tutelage of Mr. Bermudez at AMLA. He was the first artist signed by MARC ANTHONY’s MAGNUS MANAGEMENT which, in turn, led to the recent release of his debut single, “La Especialista,” on Sony Music Latin. Perhaps, more importantly, Mr. Bermudez’s influence has resulted in scores of disadvantaged Latin youth finding a life-long path of positivity through the discipline and sense of community derived from effective music education.
While constantly striving to improve working conditions for area musicians, Mr. Bermudez produced the recording “Authentico,” a compilation of recordings by AMLA. Artists in 2002. In 2008, he was the EXECUTIVE PRODUCER on PAPO VAZQUEZ and the Mighty Pirates’ GRAMMY-NOMINATED recording, “Marooned/Aislado” (Picaro Records).
Through the years, Mr. Bermudez has been a near-constant presence on the local radio scene, having been the host of MEGA’s (1310 AM) popular radio program “Sonido Diferente” before launching his Internet radio channel, Rayjess.com. He currently hosts the weekly music history program “Did You Know?” on U-SALSA radio. In addition, he serves as host and producer of The Painted Bride’s “Salsa Caliente” series, Philly’s Best Dance Party by Philadelphia Magazine (2013).
Along the way, Mr. Bermudez has received numerous awards and citations. Champion of the Children (2007), WPVI TV-6 Community Award, Latin Beat Magazine Siempre Salsa Award, Puerto Rican Alliance Award, and Barrio Salsa Award (2006). Having engaged in dozens of collaborations with local, regional, and national arts and culture organizations, including the Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts and Philadelphia Jazz Project, Mr. Bermudez received a LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD FROM THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF LATINO ARTS AND CULTURES in 2012. On October 4th, 2014, Mr. Bermudez was presented the Hispanic Choice Awards’ Lifetime Achievement Award before a capacity crowd at Philadelphia’s Miriam Theater. In addition, he is the co-founder of the City of Philadelphia’s official week-long annual celebration of salsa music, Siempre Salsa Philly Week. In appreciation of his many cultural contributions, City Council unanimously voted to designate July 8th as “Jesse Bermudez Day” throughout the City of Philadelphia. Mr. Bermudez, who also serves on Mayor Kenney’s Cultural Advisory Council, has been recognized as one of “PA’s 100 Most Influential Leaders 2018” by Latino Connection and Governor Wolf’s Latino Advisory Commission.