Gary is co-founder of the Sovereign Arts Society. He began his interest in percussion at the age of 9. His first studies included snare drum and orchestral percussion. In elementary school he easily mastered his instruments gaining recognition as a recipient of numerous certificates of excellence and membership in the school band. Throughout his time in high school he served as percussionist in the Jazz Band, the High School Marching Band and the School Orchestra. He was also a member of the San José Youth Symphony, The San José Raiders Drum & Bugle Corps, the Velvet Knights Drum and Bugle Corp, the Spirit of Sunnyvale and began competitive touring until 1986 when he began his studies in music at Orange Coast College. He joined and continued competitive touring for the next 3 years. In 1989 he relocated to Tucson where he established himself as lead percussionist in various bands, dance ensembles and theatre companies for the next 10 years. It was here that he founded the Afro-Cuban ensemble that led him to collaborate with co-founder Itule. Together they envisioned the concept of the non-profit organization as a platform with which to galvanize their shared passion of fostering and promoting the survival and growth of cultural traditions by facilitating artistic exchanges and collaboration across global sociopolitical barriers. He now resides in the Bay Area where he continues as percussionist.
Margo Itule is co-founder and Executive Director of the Sovereign Arts Society (SAS.) The diversity of her artistic experience, as Goldsmith, singer, dancer, graphic artist and poet, is equaled by her commercial expertise in grant writing, business management and fiduciary administration. Her research /studies abroad led her to La Escuela Nacional De Artes and La Universidad de Matanzas, Cuba. Where she developed a keen interest in Afro-Cuban culture. She now focuses her energy on the management of SAS, handcrafting Shekeres and creating intricate jewelry. She is devoted to developing/producing quality cultural programs to promote community development through artistic expression. Her collaborations include partnerships with the University of Arizona Music and Dance Departments, Arizona Ballet Theatre, Outward Visions, Tucson City Council, University of Arizona Africana Studies, The Afro-Cuban All Stars, Los Van Van, Grupo Ban Rra Rra, Cubanismo, Conjunto Folklorico Nacional and the Havana International Jazz Festival.
Eliza Desiree Butler, Ph.D.
Eliza is a assistant professor in Miami, Fl. Her work focuses on the critical literacy practices and the role of the arts as a liberatory social act. She is a film-maker, mixed-media artist and researcher who uses social media as a tool to connect people across socio-political and geographical constraints. Her work is inspired by collaborations with artists as she focuses on the sociocultural significance of creativity as a critical socio-political act. Check out Eliza's publication about Cuban Reggaetón entitled "The liberatory potentials of multimodality: Collaborative Reggaetón music video production in Habana, Cuba".
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Manuel is percussionist, singer and instructor. He was born in Saltillo, Mexico in 1975. Inspired by his grandfather, jazz saxophonist, Red Holloway, he began his musical education at age six.
He has studied Conga drumming and Lucumi song forms in Cuba and the US with such masters as Lazaro Galarraga, Michael Spiro, Jesus Diaz, Miguel Bernal, Reynaldo Gonzales, John Santos, Roberto Viscaino, Ramon Perez, Juan De Dios, Francisco Agualbella, and Los Munequitos De Matanzas.
He currently resides in Tucson where he teaches ongoing classes in drum & song and acts as musical director of his Afro-Cuban ensemble, Ritmo-Bacheche.