Armando Castellano is a professional musician and teaching artist. He plays the French Horn and founded Quinteto Latino, an ensemble to uplift classical works of cultural significance. Building community while advocating for classical musicians of color is very close to Armando’s heart. He’s also a trustee on his family foundation’s board, along with his two sisters Carmela and Maria. His family came into money when they won the California Lottery in 2001.

Donors of Color Network: What’s new Armando?

AC: I was practicing right before you called, I have been trying to get this passage just right and I finally got it right before I got on the call with you, yay! In thinking about how I practice, a lot of the music I play I don’t really need to practice, I usually end up just needing to practice the most difficult of passages, like this one.

Donors of Color Network: I’m also hearing you say that what you really have to work on is what’s difficult, and taking new actions is always that. This sounds like it could be relevant for practicing philanthropy. Can you elaborate?

AC: Music is the ultimate metaphor. You’re trying to get a pitch, a note to represent an emotion or a feeling or a story. It’s very abstract, and it’s the process, a fine art – very refined. We just keep practicing that one note within the context. Playing at a very high level, incremental change is very tiny. So it’s a very refined, slow process of getting better. That’s what philanthropy and social change is like. A very slow incremental step to change philanthropy as a whole. It takes a lot of hard work – weeks on that one note – for the change to happen. It’s yin and yang, music and philanthropy.

What’s really on my mind is this initiative I started via my family’s foundation – Blueprint for Change. We did convenings and asked questions of our grantees about what they need.

What can make it better for Latinx serving nonprofit organizations? They picked five things – 1) more support for general operations 2) leadership development 3) staff wellness 4) access to philanthropy, and 5) innovation. There’s a big move towards innovation here (Santa Clara/San Jose/San Francisco Bay Area) but foundations won’t fund it. Nonprofits need trust and flexibility and funding to innovate.

Read the full interview with Armando Castellano at Donors of Color Network.