Guitars Over Guns' Louis Salgar Award: "He Elevated the Lives of the People Around Him"

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On the afternoon of Monday, June 23, 2014, Louis Salgar was shot and killed in his own home after interrupting a home invader during the commission of a robbery.

The confessed murderer is Raul Reinosa, an ex-convict and drug addict, who used a gun found at Salgar's residence to commit this shocking, senseless crime.

But Louis wasn't just a victim. He was also a son, brother, friend, bandmate, barmate. He played in a number of local punk bands. He poured drinks at Gramps and the Broken Shaker. He was loved. He is loved.

And now he will be remembered, every year, with the Guitars Over Guns' Louis Salgar GOGO Legacy Award.

See also: Louis Salgar Murder: Suspect Identified in Fatal Shooting of Miami Musician and Bartender

A local non-profit dedicated to providing music education for teens at risk of gang recruitment, drug use, and street violence, Guitars Over Guns recently created a yearly honor in tribute to Louis.

"This award," Guitars Over Guns co-founder Chad Bernstein explains, "is given annually to the student who most exemplifies Louis Salgar's ability to elevate the lives of the people around him through his unmistakable passion, uncompromising drive, infectious sense of humor, and positive attitude."

The inspiration for the memorial prize arose when Bernstein and his Suénalo bandmates met Gabriel Urrutia, a friend of Louis Salgar, just a couple of days after the musician and bartender's tragic death.

"We were on NBC promoting the new Suénalo album and the date of the Guitars Over Guns benefit," Bernstein says. "Louis had been killed less than 48 hours earlier. And his good buddy, Gabe, a mixologist, just happened to be in the studio doing a cocktail demonstration.

"And when he heard us talk about Guitars Over Guns, he immediately went up to our manager and said, 'I need to know more. I just lost my friend.'"

See also: Miami's Guitars Over Guns: Teaching Kids Music and Keeping Them Off the Street

"Soon," Bernstein says, "Gabe and I, along with the other members of Guitars Over Guns, started having a conversation about what we could do for the community following Louis' killing.

"Because when you suffer a loss like this one, it hits really close to home. And many of us live in similar neighborhoods. So all the musicians and bartenders in our city were very affected by the tragic situation, as well who Louis was as a person and what kind of indelible impact that he had on people.

"Ultimately, Guitars Over Guns event coordinator Abby Portuondo suggested we create an award. And I loved the idea because it will be given every year, and it will become something that memorializes Louis in a very positive way while giving us all a chance to reflect upon his energy, his positivity, his spirit."

Another central figure in the creation of the Louis Salgar GOGO Legacy Award has been the musician and bartender's sister, Nicole.

"She's been working so hard to preserve Louis' legacy," Bernstein says. "She was also deeply involved in the development of the award. And she even spoke very beautifully of her brother at the Guitars Over Guns event.

"Among the most touching moments was when she quoted a passage that she's '98-percent sure that Louis wrote,' which reads: 'Creativity is the lead foot on the accelerator in the vehicle of progression. To juggle our lives and still carve time to nurture our creative weapons of choice is always a challenge. But without works of art working their magic on us to throw in our own two cents, how could we progress as humans.'"

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