Lt. Col. Herman Gonzalez has a way of drawing people together.
Those he gathers are musicians who share his passion for Latin music. The Evans resident, who plays an instrument known as a cuatro, has led many bands during his Army career. In September and October, his group of musicians, Mejor Que Nah, played several Hispanic festivals at Fort Gordon and in Augusta.
"It goes back to my dad. He loved this type of music," said Gonzalez, who was born in New York but moved to Puerto Rico when he was 12 years old. He remained there until he was 24.
Although the cuatro looks like a guitar, it isn't. It has a sound that personifies Latin music.
Gonzalez, a self-taught musician, watched master cuatro players such as Maso Rivera and imitated their techniques. Rivera, who died in 2001 at age 74, is considered one of the finest cuatro players ever.
"He was down-to-earth, real nice," Gonzalez said.
The two developed a relationship, and Rivera served as Gonzalez's mentor. Gonzalez uses one of Rivera's cuatro routines in his programs to teach children about the instrument.
"It grabs the attention of little kids. It gets them interested in playing," he said.
He has four miniature cuatros, the smallest of which has only one string. With them, he plays popular tunes as well as theme songs from television shows.
Gonzalez also collects full-size cuatros; some of them were owned by famous people, including Jose Feliciano; another has been signed by famous cuatro players including Rivera.
While he loves his music, Gonzalez said he has no plans to turn it into a career. He'll just gather like-minded musicians wherever the Army sends him.
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