Johnny Vega

Class of 2024

Johnny Vega is a singer/songwriter, international recording artist, and celebrated Salsa-music pioneer. It is said there is Salsa “before Johnny Vega and Salsa after Jonny Vega,” referring primarily to his implementation of horns, trumpets, and vocal harmonies. The native of Puerto Rico first ang publicly at age 13 when he won a radio-station singing contest that earned him the gifts he wanted to give his mother for Mother’s Day. The following year he taught himself guitar and set himself on a lifelong career in music.

Moving to Rochester in 1970 he played numerous gigs while composing music and soon caught the ear of industry giants. As big names came to town, Vega made it a point to meet with them and offer songs. This led to his song “Pancuco” being recorded with Frankie Ruiz.

In time Vega’s band were playing with Latin music legends Celia Cruz, La Poncena, and Hector Lavoe. Now heralded as a legend himself, Vega is one credited for influencing countless Salsa musicians internationally. When they meet him, they thank him and call him “maestro.” The Salsa Maestro has been recognized by the City of Rochester and Rochester’s Hispanic Heritage Committee.

Remaining humble, upon earning the Heritage Committee award, Vega said, “I want the people, the Latin people, to know and share how I feel about them. How much I owe to them, because without them there is no Johnny Vega.”