Today we’d like to introduce you to Marisel Lopez.
Marisel, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Our band’s first performance only featured myself, our co-founder who has passed, Alberto Menendez, and two other female vocalists. Eventually, others joined the organization and throughout the years, over 50 trained musicians and rescued artists have become a part of Algo Nuevo’s legacy. At least once a month, we produce events all over town. The main objective is to keep the music alive and have a good time. Algo Nuevo has helped usher in a new wave to South Florida by bringing the classic sounds of Cuba to the forefront since 1994.
After realizing there was a void that needed to be filled in our growing senior citizen following, we formed a non-profit organization in 2003 and kept the same name as the band. The philanthropic efforts of Algo Nuevo is to provide music therapy to our most neglected population, the elderly. As a proud Cuban–American, I’ve always valued Algo Nuevo as a real rescue mission, not just for Cuba’s musical legacy, but for the people who have the same vision of preserving their own traditions. I have worked with many other creatives who were no longer considered or respected in their craft because of their age; despite having merit, knowledge and experience in the arts. And just how I didn’t let my dream die down despite my age, I wanted to do the same for others.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Well, deciding to be a singer and start a band at the age of 45 was going to be an uphill battle and I knew that from the start! I’ve always had a passion for the stage but unfortunate circumstances when I was in Cuba didn’t allow that to happen, so I went to school for accounting. My family and I sacrificed to come to this country and many years later, I connected with a group of peers in my adult English class who shared the same passion as I in the arts. I met so many who were older and had a similar story as mine. I also met others who were singers, dancers, musicians or involved in the arts in their country and gave up their passion when they came to this country to support their families. I call them “rescued artists.” I then formed a band alongside an amazing guitarist and friend, Alberto Menendez. I decided to follow my dream at an older age and my family was in full support of it. I was made fun of by some but was ultimately welcomed by so many. Our group (between band members, singers, dancers, drag queens, poets, you name it…) are over the age of 45. And our audiences are mostly seniors. I love what I do, and I would say this work and the music has saved a lot of us. I am almost 70 and hope to do this till I can’t!
Before the pandemic, we would produce monthly events at different locations all over South Florida. We would coordinate with different low-income housing communities that cater to the elderly to transport them to the events and they would enjoy a live band and an entertaining show. When we weren’t working on our monthly events, we would perform at different senior citizen homes and community centers throughout the city with the support of Miami-Dade County Cultural Affairs but unfortunately, COVID has put everything on hold. Thankfully, we adjusted how to continue this labor of love for the seniors and since the beginning of June, we have performed at several senior citizen residential communities (and counting)!
Can you tell our readers why you chose to provide this service to the elderly?
Algo Nuevo has provided a necessary community service to a very neglected population for the past 25 years. Our seniors are vessels in our community and Algo Nuevo works to provide them with entertainment to help them stay alive and give them a sense of hope that they still matter. Aging in America can be a lonely experience. It often means being placed in a retirement home, isolated from the rest of society. When our culture, obsessed with staying young, overlooks the senior citizens, it loses a source of wisdom that should be treated as a priceless resource. Algo Nuevo is here to show them they are loved and cared for through the universal language of music.
Time and time again, music has proven to lift the soul. As Plato once said, “Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” The ugly in the world has shown the beauty in a lot of us. If we all loved on each other a little more, we can get through what’s going on, together.
If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
Speaking for myself, I would have probably followed my dreams before the age of 45. I can’t change the past and everything is meant to happen how God intended it, but taking a chance on yourself can be scary but so liberating. But hey, maybe doing it earlier would have not afforded me the opportunities to find a niche and thrive in the way I do with my fellow seniors. I am so thankful.