The old quip, "How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice!" was a clarion call for aspiring musical stars of America in the 1950s. Not for little kids from Puerto Rico.
That didn't stop Gilberto Santa Rosa, who was born in San Juan in 1962 and became a professional concert salsa performer at 14 years old. The "Gentleman of Salsa," as the four-time Grammy winner is known, became the first Puerto Rican singer of tropical music to perform at Carnegie Hall in 1995.
Santa Rosa will perform in Key West Sunday, fresh from his Friday night performance at the Naples Philharmonic Center of the Arts. The Sunset Pier concert begins at 3:30 p.m., with Santa Rosa taking the stage from 6 to 8 p.m.
He will sign his smooth interpretations of the ultimately danceable form of music. His style, according to music critics, is a "fusion of smooth romantic ballads with the traditional rhythmic beat of the congas and timbales."
Salsa, generally defined as a modern style of Cuban-derived genres, such as son, mambo and son montuno, has a huge worldwide following as an invisible force that seemingly causes the body to dance against one's will.
During his quarter-century career, Santa Rosa's love affair with salsa and other Latin music genres has won him two of the biggest music awards: the 2006 Latin Grammy and a 2007 Grammy for best tropical production, among others.
According to his biography, Gilberto Santa Rosa grew up in the Santurce area of San Juan, Puerto Rico's capital. In 1976, when he was 14, Santa Rosa made his recording debut with the Mario Ortiz Orchestra; shortly after, he was the lead singer for La Grande Orchestra and had a stint with the Puerto Rico All Stars, a salsa and Latin jazz ensemble that included various stars in the 1970s.
Santa Rosa has also recorded with the orchestras of Tommy Olivencia, Willie Rosario and El Gran Combo.
In 1986, he got his own band on the Combo Records label and launched several hits, including "Vivir Sin Ella," and "De Amor y Salsa," and "Good Vibrations."
His first U.S. label -- CBS/Sony, which produced "Punto de Vista" -- went platinum.
The United States -- with Puerto Rico as a territory -- seems to like its son: Santa Rosa has sold more than 3 million albums here and 4.8 million worldwide.
His performance on the pier at the Ocean Key Resort & Spa aligns with Hispanic Heritage Month. Tickets are $40 in advance at the Zero Duval Street resort and $50 at the door. For more information, call 786-337-0032.