LUTHERVILLE-TIMONIUM, Md. (WJZ) — Manuel Barrueco knows how to make a guitar sing. After all, the classical guitarist first picked up the instrument six decades ago as a boy in Cuba.

“The kids in my family were playing — my sisters, my cousins. I would just sit there and be mesmerized by it,” Barrueco said. “I just thought it was the (coolest) thing ever.”

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Barrueco, now 68, would emigrate to the United States with his family in 1967, an experience he remembers being painful as a teenager.

“We were leaving everything behind, we came as refugees,” Barrueco said. “The Cuban government just took everything you had. And my sister, one of my sisters, was left there, and it was very difficult and very painful.”

His family would eventually settle in Newark, New Jersey. But even as he witnessed his surroundings change dramatically, there always remained one constant: the guitar.

“In times that I, maybe when I’ve gone through a difficult stage in my life, the guitar was there,” Barrueco said. “It gave me something to do and to concentrate on.”

He would go on to study at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore. Eventually, he signed a record deal that allowed him to record music and perform around the world.

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Barrueco’s most recent record earned him his fifth Grammy nomination, a milestone only sweetened by the fact that it was his first with his wife as a producer.

“It’s great,” he said. “It’s actually great to enjoy others enjoying it.”

Now, Barrueco works to spread his love for classical guitar as a teacher at the Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University, a prestigious conservatory and preparatory school for aspiring performers.

“Somebody wrote once that music is what feelings sound like,” he said. “So, I would like to think that through music we can communicate feelings that you can’t with words. And maybe that is why the arts exist.”

The Latin Grammy Awards is being held on Nov. 18. Barrueco’s Grammy-nominated record can be found on most streaming platforms.

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His music is available for purchase on Tonar Music. You can learn more about Barrueco and his journey on his website.

Sean Streicher