Alejandro Hernandez probably never imagined that Puerto Rican musical traditions he was instilling in his young granddaughter Lee Hernan would someday delight Oklahomans.
The gentleman was a vocalist and guitarist in a trio that included his brother singing close harmony love songs. They played in and around Aguadilla on the island’s northwest tip that’s also often called Jardín del Atlántico (Garden of the Atlantic).
Hernandez recognized the child’s musical gift and cultivated it. Lee Hernan came to Oklahoma from Puerto Rico seven years ago after being recruited for a teaching position in the Oklahoma City Public School system.
Happily, she started a second career here as a vocalist and band leader. Hernan’s quintet will take the stage at 7 p.m. Oct. 7 at the Legacy Park amphitheater stage, 1898 Legacy Park Drive.
It’s a free Hispanic Heritage Month Concert and the finale of the 2022 Legacy Park series.
“I’ve been singing since I was a little girl,” Hernan said. “Some of my family were singers but it was locally, they weren’t famous and it wasn’t their full-time job. But thanks to my grandfather I was involved in the music since I was very little. He discovered my talent and I was passionate about music and singing.”
Hernan enjoyed participating in school and municipal talent shows.
“That’s when I started singing in public from ages 10 to 18,” she said. “At age 16 my grandfather taught me to play guitar. That time was really special for me because it was when I started writing my own songs. I’m a songwriter but most of the time I sing cover songs by other artists.”
Hernan holds a Bachelor Degree in Education and has taught Spanish and English languages at the pre-kindergarten and kindergarten level here. Presently she is teaching English as a second language.
She works with small groups of students unfamiliar with English.
“In Puerto Rico I had different bands,” Hernan said. “At 18 I played with a rock band, singing in Spanish and English. I did that right up until I moved to Oklahoma City. We played rock, pop, some tropical music and electronica.”
Hernan arrived on red dirt with no plans for singing because she knew no musicians and was unfamiliar with the local music scene.
“I didn’t know there was a big population of Hispanic people here,” she said. “But the drummer of my first Oklahoma band called Tequila Azul contacted me after someone saw me singing at a Puerto Rican event for the new teachers who arrived here.
“I was singing karaoke and he called me and asked me to join the band after seeing some videos. He liked my performance and that was the first time I started singing with a full band in Oklahoma City.”
For a time she played Plaza Mayor shows on Sunday afternoons with Tequila Azul. Now Hernan has her own band with original and cover music posted at Spotify, Youtube and iTunes.
She has powerful pipes and entrancing stage presence. Hernan’s Legacy Park show will include a smorgasbord of Latin music including reggaeton, pop rock and Cumbia.
“I write love songs in Spanish and especially about melancholy women who suffer a lot in love,” she said. “Another called ‘Bravo’ is about my passion for music and how I love to connect with my audience.”
Hernan’s challenges as a band leader are numerous. She books gigs and makes professional contacts after teaching all day.
“I want to perform out of state and finding venues can be difficult,” she said.
Hernan’s role as an educator includes enlightening friends and family in Puerto Rico about her life on the southern plains.
“Most of what people know about Oklahoma is from the movie Twister,” she said with a chuckle. “Also the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team. The music here is different. Country and pop-rock music are strong here.
“For the Hispanic area it would be traditional Mexican music, like Banda and Cumbia are most popular here. It’s good to know other genres, I want to add country to my repertoire in the future because it has a special sound.”
Hernan’s receptivity to other influences has not diminished her primary artistic inspiration that began in the mountains of Puerto Rico.
“That comes from my family,” she said. “It’s a gift that comes from heritage. It’s something I’ve felt since birth. It was and still is my dream to travel around the world like Shakira. Music unites people and it’s special for me.”