President Barack Obama last week awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor — the Presidential Medal of Freedom — to 16 Americans in a ceremony at the White House.
Among the recipients was celebrated jazz trumpeter, pianist and composer Arturo Sandoval, a former resident of Miami Springs. After defecting to the United States via Spain in 1990, Sandoval lived for years in a home on South Royal Poinciana Boulevard.
Although Sandoval was universally acclaimed and recognized for his music, he was relatively unknown in the Springs. People in the know often saw Sandoval on the streets and he was pleasant and affable.
Sandoval’s wife opened a travel agency on Westward Drive near the Post Office where she handled her husband’s travel arrangements, and his agent had a small office next door.
In August 2003, Sandoval appeared at a charity function
at the Miami Springs Golf & Country Club where he
was acknowledged with awards from Miami-Dade County Commissioner Rebeca Sosa and Miami Springs Mayor Billy Bain. Sandoval reciprocated by playing the “Star Spangled Banner” on his trumpet.
Sandoval was born outside Havana in 1949 and as a talented young man he met and became a protégé of jazz legend Dizzy Gillespie, toured with Gillespie, and gained international acclaim as a dynamic performer.
Sandoval has won nine Grammy Awards and been nominated 17 times; he has also received six Billboard Awards and one Emmy Award. He is widely considered one of the greatest living jazz artists and is now an American citizen.
Sandoval’s life was the subject of the 2000 TV film “For Love or Country: The Arturo Sandoval Story,” starring Andy Garcia. Sandoval moved from Miami Springs to Coral Gables in 2003 and currently resides in Calabasas, Calif.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom was established 50 years ago by President John F. Kennedy to honor those who have made outstanding contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to other significant public or private endeavors.
Besides Sandoval, this year’s recipients included former president Bill Clinton, country music legend Loretta Lynn, renowned women’s rights activist Gloria Steinem and television icon Oprah Winfrey.
Obama said this year’s honorees have been blessed with extraordinary talent. But he said what sets them apart is their gift for sharing that talent with the world.