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Andrés Salguero and Christina Sanabria: “Color blind”

We always encourage people to be aware of their platform. Initially, we may have been shy about stating a position on a potentially controversial topic, but we have found that our audience welcomes us addressing these issues in a family-oriented way. We have used our platform to raise awareness and funds for Immigrant Families Together, […]

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We always encourage people to be aware of their platform. Initially, we may have been shy about stating a position on a potentially controversial topic, but we have found that our audience welcomes us addressing these issues in a family-oriented way. We have used our platform to raise awareness and funds for Immigrant Families Together, which is working to reunite asylum-seeking families separated at the border. It has been incredibly rewarding that we can get hundreds of people in a theatre, to sing and dance together and while we do that we are raising money to provide thousands of dollars pay expensive bonds for families that have been separated.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Andrés Salguero and Christina Sanabria of 123 Andrés. Latin Grammy-winning duo Christina and Andrés is a kids’ music power couple that, pre-COVID, traveled non-stop bringing their message to audiences across the US and Latin America. Now, they continue reaching thousands of families each month through their interactive online shows.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

Thank you for the invitation!

Andrés: I grew up in Bogotá, Colombia. One day when I was six, my dad was walking by a community center and heard kids’ voices singing. It turned out to be a kids’ music group, so he signed me and my brother up. I continued studying music, specifically classical clarinet, until I got a Doctorate in Clarinet Performance!

When I decided to pursue music in college and as a career they always supported me. I moved to the US for graduate school, and I kept studying until I earned a Doctorate in Clarinet Performance! Then, I decided the best thing I could do was create music for children and families.

Christina: I grew up in the Midwest. My parents were immigrants from Bogotá, and it was important for them that I be able to communicate in Spanish. Now we see so many families like mine, who are trying to raise bilingual children. It’s very rewarding to be able to support families by providing music that’s bilingual, bicultural and fun.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

When I was in grad school studying clarinet, I was also playing in other bands lots of different styles of music. One day I was hired to sub in for a sax player in a children’s performer’s band — Dino O’Dell, in Kansas City. I had so much fun that I continued playing in Dino’s band and learning from him. After getting my Doctorate, I decided instead of working for a university or orchestra I wanted to spend my career performing for kids and families. I knew I could offer a show in Spanish and English that reflects the day-to-day life for so many kiddos growing up bicultural in the US, so I decided to create my own band!

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Christina: We’ve had so many stories. Recently, two separate families reached out to tell us that they used our music to help their toddlers potty train!

Andrés: My most rewarding experience is when we see that the children come with their own ukuleles or little guitars to the show. I love the story of Juanpi, a toddler who can’t go to sleep without his guitar. Or the two five-year-olds who have surprised me with the amazing songs they have written themselves on the ukulele. That makes me feel like I’m doing something good!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting?

Andrés: Right before our last song, I would always introduce the band. I would say… “Hector on percussion, Luis on drums…” and I would make a joke: “On vocals, my ex-girlfriend Christina. People would look quizzically and I would say “She’s my ex-girlfriend because she’s my wife!” and everyone would laugh.

Well, one time I said… “Hector on percussion, Luis on drums, and on vocals, my ex-wife!” The crowd looked really confused. “I mean no, not ex-wife, ex-girlfriend. I mean she IS my wife, not ex-wife…” I got so tripped up but by the end of it everyone was cracking up.

Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Christina: Not to joke about relationship status, LOL!

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

We just released our first book! It’s published by Scholastic titled Hola, Amigo. We’ve had a lot of fun doing author visits — virtually — at public libraries and bookstores across the US. Our next book is coming out in the spring — we’re excited!

And of course we continue making music and videos. We have a phonics series in Spanish with a song and video for every letter of the alphabet — new videos are coming out on YouTube every few weeks. And our latest album, Hola, Amigo: Songs of Friendship is currently spinning on kids’ radio stations across the US.

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

For us, diversity gives us a way to explore new sounds.

For example, on the song Cooperation from our latest album, we teamed up with Rissi Palmer, a Black country music singer who also has done children’s music. She knows this style of music inside and out! We would never have created a song with a country music sound if it weren’t because of collaborating with an artist like Rissi! But we love it, and listeners do too — check it out!

Before the pandemic, we performed at a school where the majority of students had parents who were immigrants, or were immigrants themselves, from all parts of the world. At the end of the concert, as the students were leaving the room, we overheard several kids asking each other things like, “How do you say ‘friend’ in Amharic?” and “What language do you speak in Ivory Coast?” That blew us away, because that’s such a central message of our music and concert. The students were feeling pride in their own culture and heritage, and were curious about their friends and classmates’ stories. That is a sentiment that is always there, and it just takes a little prompting and cueing for students to act on it. Art is a powerful way of doing that.

Our biggest goal for our music is to connect children and families to celebrate and learn about Latin heritage and Spanish language. In Wisconsin we met a third-grader who learned Spanish from his Mexican father but who was losing motivation in continuing to learn. After we visited his school his mom told us he had gotten excited about being bilingual again — our in-school program drove home that it wasn’t just a language his dad spoke, but a pathway to connect with a whole world of people. We get videos and messages from parents all the time with stories like that. We are proud that our songs support children in learning words and phrases in another language, and that the underlying messages of multiculturalism, curiosity, and friendship stick in their minds and hearts.

In reality, wherever we are performing, whether or not it’s an “international” or diverse community, we find that kids of all ages do believe that we can all be friends regardless of what language we speak, and are enthusiastic about learning about other countries and cultures.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started”; and why? Please share a story or example for each.

I’ve been lucky to find wonderful people who have shared advice!

One important piece of advice: treat your music business as a start-up. You need a business plan, you need to have clear goals and understand all of the other components of a business, such as branding, promotion, etc. I’ve also gotten great advice by listening to amazing entrepreneur stories, such as the podcast “How I Built This.” Highly recommended listening!

Another thought is to keep your horizons flexible. In my case, I had a certain vision for career — to become a clarinet professor at a university. But, while I was devoting myself to practice and performing, I was always willing to go through doors that opened up for me along the way. One of those doors turned into a career in children’s music with 123 Andrés, something that was not in my plan but that has been so incredibly rewarding. I have tried to always move forward with drive and sense of purpose, but never be so rigid in my vision that I miss out on opportunities or options I had not considered before.

We always encourage people to be aware of their platform. Initially, we may have been shy about stating a position on a potentially controversial topic, but we have found that our audience welcomes us addressing these issues in a family-oriented way. We have used our platform to raise awareness and funds for Immigrant Families Together, which is working to reunite asylum-seeking families separated at the border. It has been incredibly rewarding that we can get hundreds of people in a theatre, to sing and dance together and while we do that we are raising money to provide thousands of dollars pay expensive bonds for families that have been separated.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Christina and I love our jobs as full-time musicians! We often have the feeling we wish we had more hours in a day, since there are so many projects we have in mind. But yes, it can be tough to carve out several hours to focus on songwriting, or to focus on a big project.

We feel that networking is very important. Find champions — both within the music industry and outside of it — that can give you feedback and new ideas. Create a team, delegate to others and outsource. There is so much for artists to do — perform, write, create new songs, booking, social media — delegating to others is important because it’s not the best use of your time for you to do it all.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

We hope that our music becomes part of the lives and the memories of a whole generation of children that are growing up in a pivotal time in our country. There’s curiosity and love, and there’s also reaction and negativity. We want to be part of that movement that is making this country a more inclusive place.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are lots of people that we should be thankful for. For example Dino O’Dell, who I mentioned earlier, was my first mentor. We are grateful to ¡Atención, Atención!, a fantastic kids’ band from Puerto Rico that has a huge following, for inviting us to open for them at their concert at the biggest coliseum in Puerto Rico a few years ago.

We’re also grateful for “everyday parents” who have given us support in ways large and small. One day a dad walked up to us after a concert and said, “My kid loves your music! I do web design… can I help you improve your website?” and he redid our website for us pro bono. Another day a mom walked up to us after a concert and said, “Our family loves you! I am a professional photographer and I would like to help you have better press photos.” And she gave us a fantastic discount on photos that really upped our game.

This brings to the fore how consequential friendships are to our careers and work. As we talk about equitable access to opportunities, it’s important to think about the impact of friendship, and to teach children not to be “color blind,” but rather to make an effort to cultivate friendships with people across race, nationality, religion and other forms of diversity. This is the message we hope children and families take away from our music and concerts.

How can our readers follow you online?

Twitter, Facebook and Instagram — @123conandres

YouTube https://www.youtube.com/user/unodostresandres

LinkedIn — https://www.linkedin.com/in/123andres/


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