Enriquillo Tejada, known as the frontman of Los Clarinetes Magicos (The Magic Clarinets), hails from the town of Villa Tapia in the region of El Cibao, where he was born in 1942. "I started learning music since the age of nine, and since the age of 17 I have always had a combo. I grew up in El Cibao until I was a teenager, and then I went from there to different towns to play as a clarinet soloist with local town bands that played public concerts in the park. When I was 17, I started playing in music venues, starting in Tenares. I finished high school in Salcedo in 1957. From Tenares I went to San Francisco de Macoris, and from San Francisco de Macoris I came to Santo Domingo and played in the symphony orchestra and the police music band there. I played in the national police band and also at times I would play in the symphony orchestra."
In addition to the clarinet, Tejada also plays the flute and saxophone. "I'm not a pianist but I use the piano to make arrangements. Every musician should know the piano, otherwise they will have problems.I have composed a couple tunes myself, but I'm more an arranger." Tejada, in fact, composed the anthem for Utesa, the Technological University of Santiago.
"I went to the conservatory and studied classical music. I started in Villa Tapia, and then when I moved to Santo Domingo, I took classes at the conservatory there and also with some other international teachers. I took flute classes with a teacher who was extremely good. At the conservatory I studied theory and harmony."
Tejada came to New York "in 1965 or '66, after the revolution." He first migrated to San Juan, Puerto Rico, and then to New York City.
"I also studied music theory and harmony at CUNY. I didn't graduate but I took about 60 credits and graduated from The Bronx Community College. I studied accounting and got an associate degree."
Tejada's passion for music has been combined for many years with work in business. "Right now I work in an office as assistant manager for a company called Rivas Travel." In the 1990s, Tejada went to Ashboro, NC to work as an international sales manager, remaining there until 2002, when he returned to New York City.
In New York, the music of Los Clarinetes Magicos is much in demand. "With my band we play through the year, we do many performances for elite people, medical doctors, classy people. There is a mix of jazz, bossa nova, bachata, merengue. I've been very careful in choosing my musicians, they are very good. Real professionals, all of them with huge experience. The piano player and I formed a band in Santiago and used to play jazz there so we've known each other a long time and been together since then."
Tejada's other half is also a talented musician. "My wife's name is Janet. She is a great singer. She was actually the one who told me, when I came to New York, that I should continue with my band. She gave me the charge to continue. She was the one who reinforced me to continue doing my music here in New York. I have a daughter who I'm very proud of, named Carolina. She's been around the world with Ricky Martin and Julio Iglesias. She just graduated arts and ballet. I'm very, very proud of her. Besides dancing, she's also a painter and composer. She's got a lot of talent. I have a son by the name of Enrique Tejada-Burgos. He's also a composer. My other son, Marcos Tejada, is also very good at painting."
Janet Tejada has performed in concerts and on television. "She used to sing at a place called Tele Antillas. She sings with me sometimes with my band. I might bring her to sing one song at the gala. A composition by Dr. Manuel Sanchez Acosta, one of our greatest composers. Dr. Hernandez asked me to do something by him. I'm making an arrangement. It's going to be one of the most important pieces because it's in reference to the event itself, from the repertoire of Sonia Silvestra. I'm going to try to convince Janet to sing a song there."
Carolina Tejada can be seen performing a duet with her father on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J8SOUXQFYgM. Watching them work together is stunning and delightful. Tejada feels he also inherited his love of music from a parent: "My musical vein comes from my father, even though he was not a musician. I remember him singing with friends and he used to do a very nice version of a song by Los Compadres, a Cuban group. He had a nice singing voice."
Tejada plays and enjoys listening to different types of music. "My preference is for good music. All genres transmit creation. Because of capabilities and training, some musicians do better than others, but all music is good. I like all kinds of music. In my band we play all kinds, including reggae-punk. But of course my most preferred kind of music is classical, especially Mozart."
In 2012, Enriquillo Tejada y los Clarinetes Magicos played at a Concert for Haitian-Dominican Friendship, a cause close to Tejada's heart, at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. "The museum was filled with both Dominicans and Haitians, and others, too, but mostly those. It meant a lot for us to be there. Dominicans and Haitians were dancing together. I was very happy to do that because I've always had a lot of respect and admiration for Haitians." He expresses gratitude to Dr. Ramona Hernandez, Director of the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute, for getting him involved in that event.
"There was one other experience that was a great success… the First Congress of Dominican Musicians in Santiago, the first congress of merengue where people of all nationalities came to discuss the roots of merengue. We participated and it was a very good success because all kinds of artists were there from different countries. Very nice."
I ask him about his current and upcoming musical projects. "Right now I am working on producing the third album of Los Clarinetes Magicos. I'm trying to include bachata. I'm also planning to celebrate 30 years with the group. I don't know where we are going to be doing this, but I am trying to put together a plan where we can play in public and celebrate our 30-year involvement in music. We have three or four performances coming for high society—on November 15 in Astoria World Manor for the Dominican Medical Association, they usually contract us for their galas, and we are also playing November 29 for Cibao Meat Products, also at Astoria World Manor, in Queens."
Does Tejada have a favorite song to play ? "One is a bachata by Juan Louis Guerra – 'Que me des tu carino.' I made a special arrangement of that. I love to play that song. Also, 'Por amor' by Rafael Solano. We will play those on December 6. We will play a few merengues. And also 'Zumbador.'"
Enrique Tejada's advice for young people is simple and straight from the heart: "The most important thing is to pursue a career, it doesn't matter which kind, but pursue it, focus on it and don't get frustrated by anything, just go ahead and do it. Continue with all your love and passion. Have passion for whatever you do. You have to have passion.
"Music will always be with me, no matter what, because actually my real, real passion is music."