Ernesto Valenzuela


Ernesto Valenzuela was born in Los Angeles to a musical family. Following Ernesto's early enthusiasm for singing, he discovered that percussion is where his passion lay. However, it wasn't until he saw Carlos Santana's world-class percussion section live that he completely fell in love with Latin percussion.

At the age of 17, mentored by Skip Howlett, Ernesto co-founded La Orquesta Primo in San Diego with the help of Manny Rivera Cepeda (Familia Cepeda de P.R.). While with Orquesta Primo, Ernesto had the opportunity to open for many headline acts including El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico, Tito Nieves, Manny Oquendo and Conjunto Libre, Cachao, Oscar DeLeon, Irakere, Cubanismo, Albita, Poncho Sanchez and many others. Apart from being one of the premier Salsa bands in San Diego, Orquesta Primo recorded several live morning news shows for NBC, and performed at notable fairs, festivals and corporate events.

Since 2002, Ernesto has been freelancing in Los Angeles, performing regularly with several bands in the Los Angeles Salsa "Cuchifrito" Circuit as well as accompanying high-profile Salsa artists who visit from out of town or abroad including Andy Montanez, Tony Vega, Camilo Azuquita y su Melao, Johnny Rivera, Tito Puente, Jr., Anthony Cruz, Nino Segarra, Wilson "Saoko" Manyoma, Ommy Cardona, Joe Lopez, Chepito Areas, Rudy Regalado, Carmelo Garcia, Victor Pantoja among others.

Ernesto considers himself a purist, in that he always respects the traditional "Afinque” and "Marcha". He credits his main influences as Eddie Montalvo, John "Dandy" Rodriguez, Jr. and Papo Pepin. Understanding that one must evolve with the times, in 2007, Ernesto began to study under the tutelage of conga master David "La Mole" Ortiz, in order to learn modern solo techniques while keeping the traditions at the forefront in his playing.

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Azuquita y su Melao Los Angeles, Ca. -
Andy Montanez at the Conga Room on 8.6.09
Tony Vega at the Conga Room