Local pianist performs for JFK, pays tribute 50 years later

Fernando Herrera, 83, met President Kennedy day before assassination

Fernando Herrera commemorated the upcoming 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy by performing a tribute concert at Our Lady of the Lake University Tuesday evening.

Herrera played piano and sang for President Kennedy in Houston on Nov. 21, 1963- the day before President Kennedy was shot and killed.

“He noticed that I had an Andalusian outfit with a Gaucho belt,” remembers Herrera. “He says 'you got a little bit of everything.' That’s right, I had a bull fighter's vest. You can see it in the picture. Only a person like him could've seen that.”

Herrera has a scrapbook full of photos of himself and President Kennedy, First Lady Jackie Kennedy, Vice President Lyndon Johnson and his wife, Lady Bird Johnson.

A large black and white photo showing Herrera standing behind the foursome stood on stage next to the piano during Tuesday’s concert.

“Before he left he shook my hand with both hands and squeezed it. ‘Thanks for everything, young man,’” Herrera said. “And Jacqueline reached over before him to thank me also. She said 'muchas gracias.’”

The very next day Kennedy was killed in Dallas.

Herrera composed “A New Frontier” in honor of JFK. He performed it for the first time on Nov. 21, 1965, at OLLU.

Herrera performed that piece and others at Tuesday’s commemorative concert.

On Thursday, Herrera will perform at the same hotel in Houston where he performed 50 years ago.

For a list of recent stories Myra Arthur has done, click here.


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