Miamiartzine interviews Bianca Moura, Executive Director of the Rhythm Foundation, about the 30th anniversary of Rhythm Foundation.
Miamiartzine.com: Who founded the Rhythm Foundation and why has it been so successful.
Bianca Moura: James Quinlan, current chair of Board of Directors, founded The Rhythm Foundation in 1988 with a partner, Paco de Onis. Our first concert, in August 1988, featured Milton Nascimento. James married Laura, a Miami native in 1989, and de Onis left for other pursuits in 1992. In 1993, Laura Quinlan became director of Rhythm Foundation, and together with James and a small staff, began presenting the legacy of major world music figures such as Indian sitar masters Ravi and Anoushka Shankar, African pop singers BaabaMaal, Malathiniand Mahotella Queens, Argentine folk singer Mercedes Sosa, Haitian band Boukman Eksperyans, Brazilian singer-songwriters Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Marisa Monte and so many other greats as well as the brightest emerging artists.And, this all before 2000.
And since then, the list grows exponentially: Paco deLucia, YoussouN’Dour, Ojos de Brujo, Bajofondo, Thievery Corporation, Diego el Cigala, John Medeski, Ibeyi, Seu Jorge, Jose Gonzalez.
Laura says this about our success: “It’s always been artist-driven. It’s always been passion-driven. We are crazy music lovers and our audience is made of crazy music lovers and we feel very strongly about the shows we present.”
Miamiartzine.com: You said 25 years later, something moved RF forward.
Bianca Moura: Yes, 25 years later, Laura secured funds from the Knight Foundation and began the free, monthly Big Night Little Haiti that ran for five years. The goal was to showcase Haitian music, featuring the country’s diverse rhythms as well as the community of Little Haiti including its food, music and fine arts. The project helped Haitian artists reach a larger audience and attract South Floridians to the neighborhood, creating a broader audience for retail businesses and the Little Haiti Cultural Center. It’s been written that while we have“presented bigger shows…few events embodied its mission and its success, better than Big Night.” Two years ago, Laura also designed the Axis of Love series which received a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The goal of the 6-concert/2-year series was to create an opportunity to build a connection with cultures primarily in the public eye for conflict zones.
Miamiartzine.com: You have a lot of support from the community.
Bianca Moura: Yes, we have so many reasons and people to be grateful for our accomplishments in the last 30 years, including all those who have connected with our work and supported us over the years, current and past board members, the generous support from the Cultural Affairs divisions of Florida State, Miami-Dade County, City of Miami Beach, Miami, the National Endowment of the Arts, Knight Foundation, Miami Foundation, our sponsors, members, and audience over all these years and certainly Laura Quinlan’s relentless strength in bringing cultures together.
Now in our 30th season, we have evolved into a leading professional organization with a growing international reputation for our exceptional organizational prowess and rich programming. We are contracted by municipalities such as Boca Raton, Doral, Hollywood to produce world-class, world music community events, exemplifying our unswerving contribution to Miami-Dade’s cultural community.
Miamiartzine.com: RF took over managing the North Beach Bandshell. Can you tell us about this?
Bianca Moura: We at The Rhythm Foundation have been very familiar with the nature of the North Beach Bandshell and the surrounding community it serves, since we had been presenting at the venue since 2000. Then in 2014 we responded to the Request for Proposal to manage the North Beach Bandshell for the City of Miami Beach. A year later we were awarded and began year-round management of the MiMo (mid-century modern) oceanfront treasure that anchors the North Beach business district, presenting over 60 concerts and cultural events per year, featuring nearly 100 artists, to an annual audience of over 60,000.
The Bandshell is a popular event space for outside promoters and cultural partners. More than half of the concerts at the Bandshell are free to the community, thanks to the support of the City of Miami Beach, the Miami Beach Cultural Arts Council, and the strong partnerships developed with several cultural organizations throughout Miami.This new activation of the Bandshell has become an integral part of the revitalization of the neighborhood.
Miamiartzine.com: So you have something special planned this weekend to celebrate RF. Can you tell us about it?
Bianca Moura: Eddie Palmieri is a bandleader, arranger and composer of salsa and Latin jazz who has won 10 Grammys, the coveted Jazz Master award - the highest honor for a jazz artist - by the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) and a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Latin Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences.His playing skillfully fuses the rhythm of his Puerto Rican heritage with the complexity of his jazz influences. He is celebrating his 80th birthday with a gorgeous album Sabiduría, and a tour of select cities that brings him to the beautiful Olympia Theater in downtown Miami.
This celebration with one of the treasures of Latin Jazz is a highlight in the Rhythm Foundation’s 30th Anniversary Season. We first presented the master in 1993. He has returned to the historic Olympia Theater since then, most recently with his stellar Latin Jazz Septet in 2012. This commemorative evening illustrates our commitment to connecting to our vibrant community and continuing to create awareness of the abundant and diverse musical expressions of the different cultures represented in our city.
The Rhythm Foundation presents "Eddie at 80," a celebration of the music of Eddie Palmieri at the Olympia Theater, on Saturday, June 2, at 174 E. Flagler Street, Miami FL 33131 .Additional tickets, from $37 to $57, can be purchased in advance online, atOlympiaTheater.org or (305) 374- 2444.