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Meet the Musician

Musician 1st Class Manuel Pelayo de Gongora,


MU1 Manny Pelayo

Musician 1st Class Manuel Pelayo de Góngora was born in Holguin, Cuba, where he started his musical studies at the age of ten. At 18, he moved to the capital city, Havana, where he had the opportunity to join several bands as a professional saxophonist, including "Klimax," led by Cuban percussionist and composer Gerardo Piloto. He performed at multiple festivals such as the North Sea Jazz Fest in Holland, Vienna Jazz Fest, Nice Jazz Festival, New Morning, Perpignan Jazz Festival, Jazz Fort- Medoc 97, Millau Jazz in France, Jazzhaus in Germany, Roskilde Festival in Denmark, Monteux Jazz Festival in Switzerland and Barbican Centre in England. Pelayo has also performed at the Blue Note in Paris and at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in London.

In 2000, he moved to Puerto Rico to continue his musical career, exploring new genres and instruments including flute and clarinet. He played in different bands and with different artists such as Quique Talavera, San Juan-Habana, Cesar Concepción, Juan Vélez, Elias López, Cultura Profética, Tego Calderón, León de Judá, Chucho Avellanet, Melina León, Tito el Bambino and others. He also participated in Olga Tañón's musical, touring the United States and Caracas in 2003, and performed with Humberto Ramirez's band at the Heineken Jazz Fest in 2003 and Tito de Gracia's band "Naoka Jam" at the Heineken Jazz Fest in 2004. Additionally, he played with Paquito de Rivera, Dave Valentin, Giovanni Hidalgo and Chick Corea, performing on more than 15 recordings.

Prior to entering the Navy, Pelayo served in the United States Army from 2009-2011. He joined the Navy in 2012 and served two years with the U.S. Fleet Forces Band in Norfolk, Virginia, and two years with the U.S. Pacific Fleet Band in Honolulu, Hawaii, before reporting to the U.S. Navy Band in Washington, D.C. One highlight of his career was performing with the Pacific Fleet Band during a humanitarian mission known as Pacific Partnership 2015. Pelayo is the saxophonist for the Navy Band Cruisers popular music group.

In his free time, he enjoys listening to and performing all types of music, as well as hiking, biking and watching movies with his family.