Luis Gomes Oral History Interview
Oral History Interview with Luis Gomes, November 15, 2016
Born in the city of Horta on the Azorean island of Faial in 1930; Luis Gomes received his education in Horta’s schools and attended Escola Do Magistério to become a school teacher; at the age of eight he started playing the mandolin, at nine the violin, and at 10 the cornet, by age 14 he was making musical arrangements, scoring music from films at the local cinema for bands in the area to play; at the age of 16 he was invited to lead one of those bands; upon completing his schooling in Horta, Mr. Gomes taught school for three years on the island of S o Miguel before becoming a public servant for the police department and moving to Lisbon, Portugal, where in his spare time, he taught private school; at that time, Mr. Gomes also studied at the Conservatório Nacional de Música de Lisboa to further improve his skills as a professional musician, composer, conductor, and music arranger; he received a promotion and transfer to the Azorean island of Terceira to serve as a police office manager and in his free time he led two philharmonic bands and a small jazz orchestra at the American air base on Terceira.
In the late 1960s, Mr. Gomes, his wife and two daughters immigrated to the United States to the Lowell, area; initially he worked as an upholster for his brother-in-law in Wilmington, Massachusetts, and at night attended Boston State College, now part of UMass Boston, where he obtained his Bachelor of Science Degree in Education; he subsequently helped start the bilingual program in Lowell’s public schools and taught in several of the city’s schools; at Lowell High School he taught Portuguese as a second language and, while, working as a teacher, Mr. Gomes founded two bands, his general business orchestra and the well-known Banda do Espírito Santo de Lowell, where he conducted, arranged, and composed music; he led this band until 2000 when he also retired from Lowell High School.
Mr. Gomes was regularly sought out by other Portuguese band leaders, throughout New England, to write and arrange music for their bands; he also performed a significant amount of volunteer work to help the Portuguese community and this ranged from taking new immigrants to hospitals and translating for them, to driving to families’ homes to discuss and encourage their children to go college; he currently volunteers as a director at the Lowell Portuguese Senior Center. In 2008, Mr. Gomes was awarded the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Portuguese Heritage Award by State Senator Steven C. Panagiotakos, for his “exemplary talent and civic commitment to the Portuguese American community.”
Scope and Contents:
Interview conducted by local historian Mehmed Ali; focuses on Mr. Gomes’ family background, his education and career, including his teaching in Lowell’s public schools and an early bilingual program in the city’s school system; much of the interview also covers Mr. Gomes’ training and career as a musician, composer, conductor, and arranger of Portuguese music in the Azorean islands, Portugal, and New England, as well as the influences that shaped Mr. Gomes’ interpretation of traditional Portuguese music.