Multitalented musician mines his Bolivian roots.
From PorchFestKC to the Performing Arts Center, Amado Espinoza and Karen Lisondra have boldly enlivened KC’s cultural and arts scene since moving here from Bolivia in March, 2014.
Espinoza, recently named an Artist in Residence in the Charlotte Street Foundation’s Studio Residency Program, plays a myriad of instruments, including all types of flutes, guitars and drums. He excels in styles ranging from traditional Andean to rock, opera and African and Arabic rhythms, which he studied in Argentina and Peru.
He also collects musical instruments, and for years directed a museum of native instruments. A fine woodworker as well as a musician, Espinoza makes and sells many instruments himself. His designs are works of art.
Espinoza grew up in the Bolivian mountains with his indigenous grandparents. He retains a great love for the natural world.
“The art in my music and instrument building serves not only as a powerful tool for personal discovery, it is a subtle invocation for people to bridge back to nature,” he says.
Espinoza’s wife, Karen Lisondra, is of Filipino descent. She grew up in the Kansas City area, but had been working and performing in theater, circus and dance for several years in Argentina and Bolivia, when she and Amado met.
He was composing; she was performing on mutual projects. They began collaborating on a one-woman show that Lisondra was writing and producing (for which she won national awards), and soon realized they were meant to be together. They married in a traditional, spiritual ceremony and, following projects of Karen’s in Columbia and France, they moved to Kansas City.
The two haven’t skipped a beat since. Their first concert was at Shane Evans’ Dream Studio. They then instituted an educational project, bringing world music and ecology to Washburn University’s Mulvane Art Museum, the Mattie Rhodes Center, Johnson County Community College and the Johnson Country Library. They are also teaching artists for InterUrban Art House.
Earlier this year Espinoza won a scholarship to the 2015 Folk Alliance International Conference held in KC, where he and Karen also performed. Espinoza calls it “one of the most incredible musical experiences of my life.”
Photo by Jim Barcus