Entertainment and music for events in Puerto Rico
Don Baaska first arrived in Puerto Rico in May 1953, hitching a ride from Miami on a cargo plane (DC 3) with a load of live chickens. He had spent the winter season in Key West, playing piano in the Happy Hour Bar. He intended to stay for 2 weeks, but it was 17 years before he left the Island. Baaska got a job in the house band at the Caribe Hilton and worked every major hotel on the Island before joining the Charlie Rodruiges Band at the Dorado Beach hotel in 1960. He stayed there for 10 years, taking over leadership in 1965. In 1970 he relocated to LA where he met and teamed up with Elvira Maria (Valli) Scavelli. Valli was a professional dancer but she loved to sing and knew just about every standard ever written, thanks to listening to her uncle Giro’s record collection in the basement in Brooklyn while creating prize winning paintings. They worked piano bars and hotel lounges in LA for several years, performed on the Island Princess while the “Love Boat” was being filmed and played four months in Tokyo. In 1980 they were firmly entrenched in a hotel lounge in Palm Springs when Don received a call from an old friend in Puerto Rico offering them a job in “Cats”, a jazz club in the Condado. Well “Cats” didn’t have 9 lives, more like 9 weeks before it folded. But Baaska called another old friend, Jimmy Stevens, who had become the top entertainment agent on the Island and Jimmy kept them busy for several years working in lounges. At Jimmy’s suggestion, they added a bass, drums and guitar and formed an entertaining dance band playing for the developing convention trade. Valli’s strong voice enabled her to do covers of Donna Summers, Whitney Houston, Bette Midler and Striesand and they prospered for many years. In the 90’s Jimmy Stevens retired and his secretary took over. Under Nilsa’s strong and experienced hand, Jimmy Stevens Productions continued to flourish. But alas, Nilsa was diagnosed with cancer and without her guidance the agency went steadily down hill and their dates got fewer and fewer, Baaska & Scavelli once again went back to the lounges, working 3 years at Palmas del Mar followed by a season at the Westin Rio Mar and another at the Ritz Carlton. While at the Ritz, they were contacted by Castillo Tours to book talent for their corporate events. This was a natural sequence of events because they knew and had worked with all the best musicians and performers on the Island.
They occasionally still perform but Valli devotes most of her time and energy to booking while Baaska concentrates on recording and distributing their 16 Cds. Their vast experience with every facet of entertainment on the Island and their personal contact with musicians and entertainers works well to their advantage. They personally supervise and coordinate with the meeting planner every event they book.
They have lived in Luquillo in an old house on the beach for the past 12 years and every summer cruise the Caribbean in their homemade Wharram catamaran.