The best new artist of 2022 is a Cuban American grandmother living out her dream of being a professional musician at the age of 95.
Angela Alvarez tied with Silvana Estrada for best new artist at the Latin Grammys on Nov. 17, winning her first Grammy.
In her speech, she thanked thanked her daughter and grandson, who was the one to first record her music.
“My grandson was the one who helped me get to where I am now,” she said in her speech. “I want to dedicate this award to God and my homeland Cuba, (which) I will never forget.”
Angela Alvarez has loved music her whole life, learning to play guitar and piano as a young girl in Cuba and writing songs from the age of 14. But she never pursued her dream of singing and songwriting professionally, she told TODAY in June 2021, because her traditional father forbade it.
Angela’s story began in Cuba, where she learned to play guitar and started writing songs as a young teen. She eventually married and started a family. After the Cuban Revolution, she made the painful decision in 1962 to send her four kids to the United States as part of the mass exodus of 14,000 unaccompanied Cuban children fleeing communist oppression.
After several long years of separation, she made her way to the United States and was reunited with her children. Her family eventually settled in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
In the years that followed, she always played music for her children and then, when the time came, her grandchildren. That includes her composer grandson, Carlos José Alvarez.
“She has been singing to us since we were kids,” Carlos, now 42, recalled. “Every chance she had to grab a guitar, she was singing to us.”
“One day, I called her up and I said ‘I want you to sing me the songs that you compose,’” Carlos said. “She walks out of a room with these notebooks that was like more than 40 songs and the songs were like a diary of her life.”
Spanning decades, from her youth in Cuba to present day, her songs traced her entire life story. In that moment, Carlos, who is a composer, decided he would one day record them.
Years passed and he focused on his own work, putting his grandmother on the back burner until 2016 when his friend asked him if he was “waiting for her to die?”
The question “knocked me over,” Carlos told the Washington Post. Soon thereafter, he flew his grandmother to Los Angeles, where he lives, and began the process of recording and producing her debut album.
After finishing the passion project, Carlos and the musicians he worked with agreed that Angela’s story should be a documentary. He reached out to actor Andy Garcia, who agreed.
“When I heard her music, I was so moved by it was moved by her story,” Garcia told TODAY. “And that was it.”
Garcia executive produced and narrated the feature length documentary, “Miss Angela,” which was released in 2021.
Then, in September, she was nominated for a Latin Grammy — best new artist at the age of 95. She took home the hardware from the ceremony in Las Vegas on Nov. 17 — finally making her dreams come true that her father couldn’t have imagined all those years ago.
She told TODAY what she thought her dad and late husband would think about her newfound music career.
“If they were here, I know they’d be proud.”
After winning best new artist, she dedicated her award to everyone who has a dream and said it’s “never too late” to follow it.
This article first appeared on TODAY.com. More from TODAY:
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