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You would never know it now. But once upon a time, New York-born Puerto Rican musician and congo instructor Carlos Cornier was a rockero, hanging out at the Fillmore East listening to Led Zeppelin.

“When I discovered the drums, I was discovering my people”: artist+ @OldTownSchool teacher Carlos Cornier on @Vocalo

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Like many kids, Cornier had rejected the music of his parents: in this case, artists like Tito Puente and Mongo Santamaria. But Cornier’s path was altered forever when he heard the guitar-rock sounds of Carlos Santana—with a conguero adding a Caribbean beat.

“I was a hippie. It is hard to believe now, but I was at Woodstock in 1969. There was a band called Santana that turned my life around.”

Carlos Cornier plays drums outside a storefront


For Vocalo storyteller Gloria Guaderrama, drumming is much more than a cultural experience. One of the 40 million Americans who suffer from anxiety or depression, Guaderrama found peace and healing through music. She talks to Carlos Cornier, her drumming teacher at the Old Town School of Folk Music, about his path to the drums and the power of rhythm.

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The Chicago Community Trust is in partnership with the Vocalo Storytellers Workshop series. Over the next several months, workshop participants will share unique examples of what giving back and philanthropy mean in underrepresented communities and across different cultures.