Brook Zern, director of The Flamenco Experience, has spent the past four decades learning about the art of flamenco and its cultural context in Spain, and sharing his insights with audiences across the U.S. He is widely considered a leading authority on the subject, and his perspective on flamenco also sheds light on Spain’s literature, poetry, art, traditions and fast-changing society.
In November 2008, King Juan Carlos I of Spain knighted Brook with the Cruz de Isabel la Catolica for his extraordinary work in disseminating Spanish culture in the U.S.
It is the first time that this rare honor – the highest that Spain can bestow upon a foreigner – has been awarded for the dissemination of insight and information about flamenco and its many cultural dimensions within Spain and the world beyond.
In addition to frequently speaking about flamenco at Music Festivals, cultural events and universities, Brook has also taught undergraduate and graduate courses on the subject. He has appeared on television and on hundreds of radio programs.
Brook is Flamenco Editor of Guitar Review, and his articles have run in the New York Times, Music Journal and El Pais, among many other American and Spanish publications. He also directs the Flamenco Center USA, providing resources and guidance to scholars and flamenco aficionados.
But the fact is, formal credentials don’t mean much in flamenco circles. The essential knowledge about the art is not acquired from reading – or writing – books. It is imparted person-to-person, and only after gaining the respect of artists and aficionados who then share their views in conversation and by performing for friends in intimate fiestas in secret city cellars, or in dingy bars in dusty towns.
Brook has had the rare privilege of knowing many of the now immortal figures in the art – singers such as La Fernanda de Utrera, Juan Talega, Manolito de la Maria, El Chocolate and Manuel Agujetas; guitarists (and his teachers) Diego del Gastor, Nino Ricardo, Pepe Martinez, Sabicas and Mario Escudero; and dancers El Farruco, Angelita Vargas and Manuela Carrasco. These and hundreds of other artists and aficionados are his sources.