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Someone You Should Know: Cuatro Teacher Orlando Rivera

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A person playing the cuatro, a traditional Puerto Rican instrument. (Credit: CBS)

A person playing the cuatro, a traditional Puerto Rican instrument. (Credit: CBS)

Harry Porterfield Harry Porterfield
Harry Porterfield co-anchors the 11 AM news with Roseanne Tellez and...
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CHICAGO (CBS) — It’s called a cuatro and it makes beautiful music. One teacher in the public schools is making a special effort to make sure Chicago kids appreciate the cuatro’s special sound.

Harry Porterfield says Orlando Rivera is someone you should know.

Have you ever heard of the Cuatro Orchestra? If you haven’t, there’s the reflection of an entire country in the sound of Puerto Rico’s national instrument.

Every Tuesday night, you’ll find them rehearsing at the Pritzger Academy and every Tuesday night you’ll find Orlando Rivera leading them in playing the cuatro.

A CPS music teacher for 24 years, he has devoted himself to the preservation of Puerto Rican culture through the music of the ancestral cuatro.

“When I see young kids seeing exactly what the cuatro is, what is the meaning of the cuatro and when they play the music and know the meaning of the music, they understand it,” said Orlando Rivera.

How and why the 4 string instrument came to Puerto Rico is not clear. What is known is that it’s been at home on the island for 400 years. Some versions feature 8 and 10 strings.

“It’s magic, it’s absolutely magic. It does so many things, it’s so versatile,” said Jeff Kust, a cuatro player.

“It has this beautiful singing voice,” said Kust. “And you can get these huge orchestrated chords out of it”

“I feel that at least I did something, for the kids, for the culture, for the city,” said Rivera.

Orlando Rivera, conductor of the Chicago Cuatro Orchestra and someone you should know.

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