Annette A. Aguilar

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Annette A. Aguilar
BornJune 28th
San Francisco, U.S.
GenresLatin jazz, Brazilian jazz, Reggae
Occupation(s)Instrumentalist, Bandleader, Instructor
Years active1973–present
LabelsEagle Seeks Salmon
Formerly ofThe Grateful Dead

Annette A. Aguilar (born June 28) is an American Nicaraguan percussionist, bandleader, and music educator. She is best known as the leader of the Latin and Brazilian jazz band Annette A. Aguilar & StringBeans, which has toured extensively in the United States and Africa.

Aguilar is a former percussionist with The Grateful Dead. She is the founder of the annual Women in Latin Jazz Festival in New York, and is also a Latin Jazz Ambassador for the U.S. State Department.

Early life and education[edit]

Born in San Francisco to Nicaraguan parents, Aguilar began playing the drums in sixth grade after seeing the Beatles on television.[1] She started with drum set and hand percussion lessons at a summer workshop, and later took up the snare drum. In her teens, influenced by the San Francisco music scene, and especially Santana, she began to play Latin rock.[2] By sixteen she was performing with well-known artists such as José Areas (formerly of Santana), Cal Tjader, and Sheila Escovedo ("Sheila E.").[3]

While an undergraduate studying classical music at San Francisco State University, she played for both a Latin-Brazilian jazz group and the Bay Area Women's Philharmonic. She earned a master's degree in music from the Manhattan School of Music and a master's degree in music education at the City University of New York.[3] She also studied Latin music with Louis Bauzo at Boys Harbor Conservatory, and with Jerry Gonzalez.[4]


In 1981 she joined Casselberry-DuPreé, an all-female reggae band consisting of Judith Casselberry, Jaqué DuPreé, and Toshi Reagon (daughter of Bernice Reagon). She moved with the band to New York City in 1985 and played on their album City Down, which was produced by Linda Tillery and won a NAIRD award for Best Reggae Album of 1986. The band toured Europe, where it was better known than in the U.S.[1] She was also a founding member of the San Francisco-based band, Chevere.[5]

In 1992 she formed her own Latin and Brazilian jazz band, Annette A. Aguilar & StringBeans, named for its use of string instruments, including violin and harp. The band is known for its distinctive blend of styles, drawing on Aguilar's diverse influences. They soon became popular in New York's Lower East Side and East Village. Since then the band has released three albums, and has played at the Kennedy Center, Jazz at Lincoln Center, and many other venues in the U.S. and abroad. They have been selected three times as Latin Jazz Ambassadors by the U.S. State Department as part of its "Rhythm Road" cultural exchange program, traveling to South Africa, Rwanda, Swaziland, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Zanzibar, and Madagascar. In Madagascar they played for the president, Marc Ravalomanana.[3][6][7]

Aguilar has played percussion with many notable artists including Tito Puente, Stevie Wonder, and The Grateful Dead. She has performed in Broadway shows including Streetcorner Symphony, The Capeman, and the Grammy-winning Smokey Joe's Cafe.[8]

In addition to performing, she teaches percussion at the Third Street Music School Settlement in New York.[8] In 2014 she organized the first annual Women in Latin Jazz Festival in Upper Manhattan.[9]



  • City Down, Icebergg Records, 1986
  • Hot Corn in the Fire, Ladyslipper, 1994

Annette A. Aguilar & StringBeans[edit]

  • Special Friends, Eagle Seeks Salmon, 1999
  • No Cheap Dates, Eagle Seeks Salmon, 2005
  • The Day Waits for Nobody, Eagle Seeks Salmon, 2009


  1. ^ a b Gaar, Gillian G. (2002). She's a Rebel: The History of Women in Rock & Roll. Seal Press. pp. 314–316. ISBN 9781580050784.
  2. ^ Boaz, Chip (August 11, 2010). "Latin Jazz Conversations: Annette Aguilar (Part 1)". Latin Jazz Corner.
  3. ^ a b c "Annette Aguilar". Women Drummers International. February 2012.
  4. ^ Boaz, Chip (August 12, 2010). "Latin Jazz Conversations: Annette Aguilar (Part 2)". Latin Jazz Corner.
  5. ^ Gourse, Leslie (1996). Madame Jazz: Contemporary Women Instrumentalists. Oxford University Press. p. 263. ISBN 9780195106473.
  6. ^ Boaz, Chip (August 13, 2010). "Latin Jazz Conversations: Annette Aguilar (Part 3)". Latin Jazz Corner. [Aguilar] pulled together a lot of those different worlds authentically in Stringbeans. It's a very different sound...
  7. ^ Rogers, Travis (May 6, 2013). "Jazz Reviews: The Day Waits for Nobody". JazzTimes. Archived from the original on December 22, 2015. Retrieved December 19, 2015. Annette has created a band of musicians and vocalists who make use of a vast arsenal of styles and virtuosities that transcend the expectations of the average listener of Latin and Brazilian Jazz.
  8. ^ a b "About Annette A. Aguilar & StringBeans". MTV.
  9. ^ Armstrong, Lindsay (November 25, 2014). "Uptown Celebrates First Women in Latin Jazz Festival". DNAinfo. Archived from the original on December 22, 2015.

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