Poncho Sanchez returns home

Gustavo Lopez

“It was the best, Poncho [Sanchez} is the best, cool groove, good swing,” Mayra Reyes-Esquer, whose niece attends Cerritos College, said.

Reyes-Esquer came with her parents to see Sanchez.

Poncho Sanchez, Grammy-award winning Latin jazz artist and Cerritos College alumnus performed live during Cerritos College’s 60th Anniversary celebration on Thursday, Sept. 17.

“I used to run around here the they were building the place in the 50s,” Sanchez said about his time at Cerritos.

He said that he’s used to the crowds of fans, but that to his band members he’s “just a homeboy who enjoys a beer just like every one else.”

Sanchez played with the Cerritos Jazz Ensemble, lead by music instructor David Betancourt and two vocalist students, Zineb Fikri and Gemma Castro.

Betancourt said that it was a pleasure and an honor to be able to perform for Cerritos’ 60th.

He added, “To be able to do with such a big crowd and have a special guest, an alumni, the whole this was just a great experience.”

Betancourt talked about the preparation the jazz band had to go through in such a short time, since it only meets once a week.

Fikri and Castro both performed a duet as well as single pieces during the celebration.

Fikri said, “It was a blast, I always get to have fun when I perform on stage,”

She performed the songs “Fever,” Fly right” and “Straighten up.”

In contrast to Fikri who was used to performing in front of crowds, Castro felt nervous because she was a big Poncho Sanchez fan.

“It was awesome, he’s (Sanchez) is someone who knows a lot about his craft,” she said.

Castro added that Sanchez is a one of her role models and influences her own singing and tastes.

Several board of trustees member were present in celebration.

Trustee John Paul Drayer said, “We’re celebrating our sustainability goals […], we have one of the best club programs,”

Board President Carmen Avalos outlined the college’s goals to carry on the legacy of Cerritos College.

She said, “We need more innovative programs, looking how to get students out quicker and looking at the deficiencies students come in with.”

Sanchez said, “There’s a lot of colleges gone by the wayside, but Cerritos seems likes it’s booming and I’m glad to play here and it brings back good memories.”

“I’d like to say, happy birthday,” he added.