JazzFest History

Sammy DeLeon

Awarded: 2016
Born: Cleveland, Ohio

"I’m gonna try my best to be the guy that keeps Latin Jazz going."

- Sammy DeLeon


Sammy DeLeon is one of the most recognized timbales players in Northeast Ohio and a fixture in the regional Latin Jazz scene. One of 13 children, Sammy was born in Lorain, Ohio, to parents who were not musicians. Introduced to the timbales by an older brother, he joined the drum corps at Admiral King High School and began playing professionally at age 13. After high school, he joined Cobra, a Latin rock band, before joining Orquesta Charambo and later, Impacto Nuevo. For the past decade, he has fronted his own band, Sammy DeLeon y Su Orquesta, opening for acts including El Gran Combo, Tito Rojas and Tony Vega. Sammy regularly mentors student percussionists in Latin rhythms and his band has become known as Sammy Salsa College. Cleveland loves Sammy for the joy he brings through his irresistible dance music.

Sammy DeLeon with Tito Puente
Sammy DeLeon explains Latin Styles of Music