WILLIE COLÓN, Bronx-born of Puerto Rican grandparents, has fused his musical talent, his passion for humanity, and his community and political activism into an extraordinary, multifaceted career.
As musician, composer, arranger, singer, and trombonist, as well as producer and director, Colón has sold more than 30 million records worldwide. He has also won 11 Grammy nominations, 15 gold and five platinum records, and he has collaborated with such musical greats as Rubén Blades, David Byrne, and Celia Cruz. Active politically since the age of 16, Colón has the rare ability to inject political messages into his music without appearing overbearing or threatening.
Colón, now 52, has served as member, spokesperson, or chair of the Association of Hispanic Arts, the Latino Commission on AIDS, the board of the United Nations Immigrant Foundation, the Arthur Schomburg Coalition for a Better New York, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, the international relief and development organization CARE, and UNIFEM (the United Nations Development Fund for Women) and its Mexican sister organization SEMILLAS.
In 1995 he became the first minority to serve on the prestigious ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Performers) National Board of Trustees, and he is now a member of the ASCAP Foundation. In 1998 he organized the Amnesty International Concert in Caracas, Venezuela, where more than 141,000 tickets were sold. Colón supports campaigns to end military occupation and practice bombing of the Puerto Rican island municipality of Vieques, and serves as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's liaison and adviser to the Latin Media Entertainment Commission. He has been a visiting professor and lecturer at many prestigious colleges and universities.
In 1991 he was awarded Yale University's Chubb Fellowship, a political recognition he shares with the late John F. Kennedy, Moshe Dayan, Jesse Jackson, Ronald Reagan, and George Bush, to mention a few. In 1998 he received an honorary doctorate from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, for the Art of Courage, a recognition given to artists who have used their art to make political change.