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May 7, 2014

Spanish singing show is a crowd-pleaser

By Maria Allard
C & G Staff Writer

» click to enlarge «
Spanish singing star Ennio Emmanuel performs in front of 1,000 Spanish language students at the Warren Woods Middle School auditorium April 30.

WARREN — When performing on stage, nothing gets in the way for Spanish singing star Ennio Emmanuel.

“On stage, there’s a feeling that everything is OK,” the 24-year-old said. “I have an exhilarating feeling.”

Emmanuel, a Brooklyn, New York, native born of Puerto Rican descent, certainly made an impression when he performed live inside the Warren Woods Middle School auditorium the morning of April 30. Electronic music is Emmanuel’s genre, with “a little bit of rock in there.”

Every year, Warren Woods Tower High School Spanish teacher Sara Rokicki coordinates a Spanish-singing concert for the WWT and WWMS Spanish class students, along with students from surrounding communities. Emmanuel sang for about 1,000 fans last Wednesday.

“They got to come and enjoy it. To have them hear a native speaker and Spanish music is why we do this,” Rokicki said. “We had a really good time.”

Rokicki said the students learned the singer’s songs during the school year so they can sing along at the live show.

“Not only do they know the songs — they know what they mean,” she said.

Toward the show’s end, the musician walked through the WWMS crowd, slapping hands with the students while a few of the girls stole hugs.

“Los amo. I love you,” he called out as the show winded down. “I appreciate you all. I hope I see you next year.”

After the performance, Emmanuel signed autographs and posed for pictures with his young audience.

The Spanish-singing shows are coordinated through the Justo Lamas Group. For many years, Lamas — an Argentinean pop star — performed a rock concert in Spanish at WWMS and WWT. He retired last year, and the musical torch was passed to Emmanuel.

“He’s truly inspirational to me. I love Justo, too,” WWT senior Heather Hoogerhyde said. “It was as amazing as it always is.” 

The Justo Lamas Group set up concerts primarily at schools and colleges. Emmanuel — who speaks English and Spanish — has 70 tour dates this year and always stays close to his Puerto Rican roots.

“I love the culture. I love the food,” he said. “We’re family-oriented.”

As a youth, being a singing star wasn’t encouraged. He was the first generation of his family born in the United States, and becoming a lawyer or doctor was the expectation.

“I grew up in a strict home,” he said. It was so rigid that his parents only played Christian music in the house. He did, however, discover the Gypsy Kings and, at age 15, began listening to what he calls secular music.

“I like all music,” he said. “Music is so vast. There is something everyone has to offer.”

As a teen, he began interning for an entertainment law firm that represented Rick Ross, Trina and Flo Rida. A driving-under-the-influence charge he got at age 19 was a turning point.

“That kind of woke me up,” the performer said.

It’s when the talented young man realized music was his true passion.

“I decided to do it with everything I had,” said Emmanuel, who soon recorded his first Spanish album and started to build a fan base.

Music isn’t his only gift. His first book “Simple Thoughts For Everyday Life” is due out this month. It chronicles the personal journal entries he has written over the last two years. Emmanuel also performs humanitarian work and has visited the countries of Haiti, Ecuador and Honduras, providing food, doctors, shelter, toys and building houses.

“I go two to three times per year,” he said, adding it’s typical to see people living in houses where the floors are made of dirt and the walls of tin. “It’s really rough.”

Emmanuel also has proven himself a talented songwriter by composing tunes for other artists, including Cobra Starship.

For more information on Ennio Emmanuel visit www.justolamasgroup.com.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Maria Allard at allard@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1045.