Roberto Sierra was born in 1953 in Puerto Rico, and his identity has been a focal point of his work and experiences throughout his life. Surrounded by water, the conversation quickly divulges to the environment. Demonstrating where Roberto’s priorities lie, he describes to me that in his youth you could “see the coast dwindling” even then, with “the waves breaking on the shore getting higher.” Displaying a deep love for his native Puerto Rico, and with the desire to preserve its rich beauties and natural habitats, Roberto’s origins expand from here to a world he could never have imagined.
In Roberto’s youth, music was everywhere, but the ability to capture that skill and take it to another level was not established in Puerto Rico. During the late 1950’s Spanish musician Pablo Casals visited Puerto Rico and married native Marta Montanez. In 1956 the island hosted the first Festival Casals to honor cultural events among the island’s inhabitants. 1960 was the year that touched Roberto Sierra’s young musical career, as Pablo Casals founded the Conservatorio de Musica de Puerto Rico, a conservatory that reached out to the island’s young talent and helped project that talent to the world stage.
At the Conservatory, Roberto Sierra studied the symphony and rhythm of music familiar to the Latino ear, as well as music from the world over. Roberto learned the piano and composition and would earn a BA from the University of Puerto Rico. With this newfound knowledge of composing works, Roberto leapfrogged from Puerto Rico to Germany. He would continue his studies at the Hochschule für Musik in Hamburg, Germany and remained in Europe for six years.
His Latin background has been an inspiration for his work. Roberto believes that cultural “change must be organic,” meaning from the ground up. “There are things that have changed a lot,” Mr. Sierra comments when asked about changing demographics and cultural views in the United States. “Inspiration comes from within; I am Puerto Rican, I am Latino.” Roberto shares this insight when asked about the sources for his inspiration and whether he takes an introspective look at his background when coming up with his works. “Latin America resembles Europe more than the United States.” Roberto believes change in the United States is happening, that the world is becoming more homogenous, but this homogenization will require a change in outlook by the generation of future leaders.
Roberto believes the work of a composer is like an author at conception; both stare at a blank page and have an idea of what they’re going to write down, however it is up to the imagination of each to fill that page with content.
Roberto Sierra has a sort of “divine inspiration” when it comes to his work and believes there is a concept of infinity that keeps the world going and inspires people to live a fulfilling life. Roberto shares that “faith exists where there is doubt.” In reflecting on the United States, Roberto believes “this country is more open than ever,” and that organic, grassroots change among the younger generations will create the foundations for a diverse, multicultural, and open society in the coming years.
Esperanza is presenting the world premiere of a New Work by Latin Grammy-winning Puerto Rican composer Roberto Sierra with Orchestra 2001 on October 27 as part of the annual ¡Conexiones! Series ¡Conexiones! Puerto Rico – Esperanza Arts Center
More information about Roberto is available here: https://www.robertosierra.com/