Musician David Aguilar was named the Sonoma Treasure Artist for 2013 Thursday evening by the city’s Cultural and Fine Arts Commission.
A Sonoma resident since 1980, Aguilar is an accomplished guitarist and for 11 years performed with harmonica blues legend Norton Buffalo and Friends. He founded his own band, Tudo Bem, along with the David Aguilar/Peter McCauley Duo, the Suspects and the Dynamites. Lately, Aguilar has performed with Big Brother and the Holding Company, the Barry Melton Band, Norman Greenbaum and the band called Why? He has also performed with a number of other famous musicians, including Bo Diddley, Bonnie Raitt, Maria Muldaur and Jackson Brown.
“I’m pretty thrilled,” Aguilar said Friday. “I’m very honored and flattered. This is mind-boggling.”
Aguilar is only the fifth musician to be honored since the city started awarding the Artist Treasure in 1983. Other musicians included Dan Ruggles in 1986, Norton Buffalo in 1992, Joanne Connor-Metzger in 1995 and Richard Schneider in 2007.
Lisa Carlsson, chair of the CFAC, said, “It’s neat to honor a musician. The Treasure Artists have been artists lately.”
She said the commission received eight nominations and commissioners then added a few more names.
“It’s a very difficult decision,” she said. “We had a good mix of artists, musicians and even a historian.”
Aguilar, who retired last year as a special education teacher at the Sonoma Developmental Center, is seen all over town as a musician, and also runs soundboards for groups such as the Sonoma Valley Jazz Society, for which he ran the board for the just-concluded Tuesday night summer jazz series.
While his daughters were at Dunbar Elementary School, they were in the annual melodrama play that Aguilar hooked up with mikes and a soundboard. “I was on call for a couple of years there,” he said. In addition, he has also helped out at Sonoma Valley High School, Adele Harrison Middle School and Altimira Middle School.
Aguilar has been the longstanding “go to guy/sound man” for Roger Rhoten’s concerts at the Sebastiani Theatre, working performances for Mare Winningham, John McCutcheon, “A Night in Paris,” “Histor of … with the Reduced Shakespeare Company” among others.
He got a chance to work with Bo Diddley for two shows in 1977 in Encinitas. “That was a big thrill,” he said. “I was kind of nervous, but I still have a recording of the shows.”
“I’ve been fortunate to work with some great people,” he added.
Aguilar learned a lot from his 11 years working with Norton Buffalo.
“He was a great mentor for me,” he said, “It was a hoot. Through him, I got to work with some greats. It was a real treat to get to know him.”
In a letter first nominating Aguilar in 2001, Sonoma Mayor Ken Brown wrote, “He has a special rapport with the performers, event staff and the public. During the time I have used his services, the events he has provided assistance to have been civic, private and community benefits in nature. Each and every time, David has been a tremendous asset in making these events most successful.”
A reception will be held to honor Aguilar, but the time and date have yet to be set. Carlsson is hoping to have it at the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art, but she is checking with museum staff to see when the facility is available.