It was a crazy year, one of the hardest I’ve ever had to tell you the truth. During the first half of the year I battled a number of unexpected personal challenges/crises that came unannounced: Health, family, family health, children growing too fast to keep up with it… Nothing life threatening or scary, but the challenges caught me off guard and beat me down at times. During these first months of the year I experienced some serious writers’ block (with music that is, not words). I had what I thought was a really good start for Shoes but then I became completely stuck, a hamster spinning in its wheel. As my self imposed deadline for a May premiere approached, I had to come to terms with the idea that the piece wasn’t ready, and it wouldn’t be music I could be proud of. So I stopped writing, postponed the premiere and decided to give myself time.
Enter the second half of the year.
Apparently, the way I seem to thrive is with an insane load of work. In late May and June I went on a US tour with Chano Dominguez and his Flamenco Sketches band. I’ve admired Chano for many years he’s been such an important influence for me. The road was also a joy to share with a wonderful gang of comrades: Flamenco singer Blas Córdoba, flamenco dancer Daniel Navarro and drummer Henry Cole. There were some memorable moments where the blues and the duende interleaved in unexpected ways, and the tour helped me overcome writers’ block. I wrote in hotel rooms, airports, dressing rooms, anywhere. The focus on the shows between those precious moments gave room for ideas to develop in unexpected ways. Upon my return home I continued writing non-stop and a 2-week stay at a friend’s house in Vermont allowed me to finish the piece.
And as if it was a magic trick, another seed of an idea decided to grow at light speed: My music production business exploded in July. I scored and produced music for quite a few podcasts from then and it doesn’t seem to show any sign of stopping. I also attended the Third Coast Audio conference in Chicago for the first time, where I was hired to write my favorite podcast theme of the year: The Slowdown, a “poem a day” podcast hosted by U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K Smith that I have become addicted to. Poetry makes life better.
All through the year I had a chance to present The Immigrant, which was also shown in museums through Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary; and I traveled to Budapest to work on a new interactive score for choreographer Kata Juhasz that will premiere this year. I taught and performed my music with the wonderful students at UVU university in Orem, Utah. I continued teaching at The New School for the 10th year, and met more young people bringing new energy to our music. I continued to play with my Trio of Words exploring our Hispanic heritage with my pals Claudia Acuña and Pablo Vergara. Had a couple pieces included in my bass brother Pablo Aslán’s new album. I consumed an insane amount of news trying to make sense out of things and attempting to believe that the world is not falling apart. I traveled with family to Yucatan and met many great mujeres and hombres. We also hiked, played in the tide pools and ate grilled oysters in the Bay Area. The list goes on and I can’t remember it all.
This was life in 2018: Hectic, intense, unexpected and vibrant. I am grateful every day for the privilege that I have to live a life in music; to have a wonderful family; to keep learning, failing and healing. I don’t take it for granted. The cliché remains relevant, it’s the journey, not the destination.
Thank you for reading and let’s toast for an amazing 2019