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A multicultural background fuels KUVO music director Arturo Gomez’s career and legacy

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DENVER — A multicultural background fueled Arturo Gómez’s love for music, and ultimately landed him his job of more than 20 years with KUVO, Denver’s oldest jazz radio station.

His father’s family moved to the United States from Spain’s Basque Country and his mother is from Cuba. The two cultures were key in influencing the KUVO music director's life and career.

“No one has control of who their parents are. I’m blessed to be born of two parents with two distinctive cultures and heritages, each with a unique family history that I have come to appreciate as a get older and more mature,” Gómez explained.

Gómez grew up on both sides of the U.S. He lived in the Bronx in New York City, then moved to Pasadena in Southern California to live with his parents and younger brother.

“It was a culture shock for me because coming from the streets of the Bronx. I was made fun of because at that time I had a thick Bronx accent,” Gómez recalled. 

Colorado Voices

Arturo Gómez's lifelong passion for music

In high school, Gómez was a vocal protester against the Vietnam War. It caused a rift between him and his father, as his father wanted Gómez to enlist in the war effort because he wasn’t drafted.

“I thought, 'if you want me to fight communists 5,000 miles away, I’d rather go to Cuba and fight communism there, since that’s part of my heritage,'” he explained, saying that eventually he and his father were able to resolve some of their differences about the war. “As time passed, he realized that I was correct in not wanting go to Vietnam because it was a useless war.”

Gómez was married for 19 years, has a daughter and three granddaughters. Following his divorce, he moved to Miami to be closer to his parents and to contemplate what to do with what he called “the last half of my life.”

One of Gómez's main passions in life has always been music. A cousin of his took notice and offered some advice.

“He said, ‘I saw your record collection and I see how you love music and I see how you know a lot about music, I’m going to take you to a radio station that wants people like you,” Gómez said with a laugh. “I didn't know anything about radio, and I don’t even have a good voice for radio, so why are you going to take me and make a fool of me by taking me to a radio station?”

Gómez was told he was exactly that the station was looking for. “He [the cousin] said, 'no this is different, it’s a public radio station, and it’s a community station, and they’re looking for people like you who have music, know music, and want to share it."

Ultimately Gómez met Carlos Lando, who has been with KUVO jazz for almost 40 years. Lando mentored Gómez, and that eventually turned into another opportunity.

“He introduced me to many great artists and movers and shakers in the radio industry," Gómez said. "Then years go by and Carlos calls me [from Denver] and says, ‘hey my music director has resigned. Do you want to be my music director?' This was 2003 and I got on the next plane and came here.”

Gómez has been the music director for 20 years and counting.

These days, Gómez says one of his main passions while working for KUVO is promoting live music performances.

“We bring live music at least every two weeks to the airwaves, which is something that’s a dying breed, live music on the radio. But at KUVO jazz we are still doing it,” he said, adding that the station will keep doing it if he has anything to say about it. He feels that live music creates more talent and creativity for the musicians themselves.

“Nowadays although there are great talented musicians, the majority are producer-driven and technology-driven and it’s about image more than musicality and talent," Gómez lamented.

Gómez also wants to drive younger generations of people to music. “Where you might not become a millionaire or have the highest income, but there are other things, in my opinion, that are more important than the money aspect in a career, and that’s what I encourage younger musicians to do,” he said.

Dana Knowles is the managing editor at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach her at

Julio Sandoval is the senior photojournalist at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach him at

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