Category Archives: Culture and Society

Trust Yourself

December 16, 2018

Culture and Society / Intention

Do you often second guess a thought or feeling that you have only to find out that your initial deduction was spot on? I have done this many times, and I am not sure why. The more I think about it, the more I feel that I am often generally inclined to be accommodating toward others even if it is at the expense of my own well being and desires. As a result, I tend to discount my own genuine feelings of discomfort, doubt, and being hurt. 

What’s up with that?

Well, I do not like being selfish or to be perceived as such, but maybe I need to adjust my thinking. Advocating for my own feelings is not selfishness. If anything, it is an act of self-preservation and protection. Nonetheless, I acquiesce far more often than I need to.  In the end, I may wind up unhappy and feeling that my own needs and desires were not met.

Okay, so how do I change this? How do I trust my own instincts better and not default to discounting them? Here are some steps I am willing to try out as often as possible:

  1. Observe the situation carefully and with minimal hesitation.
  2. Discern and acknowledge my own immediate impressions and feelings.
  3. State my impressions clearly in my head.
  4. Figure out the best course of action that advocates for my needs without infringing unnecessarily on the needs of others.

There is an old adage (or cliché as some might see it) that says, “To thine own self be true.”

This statement speaks to the value and active practice of trusting your own instincts and intuition. This is possibly the best way to develop and build the wisdom upon which you can build your life.

Perhaps in my case, there is a deeper underlying factor that prevents me from trusting myself more. I have no idea what that is, but my intuition tells me that I need to change this regardless of whatever that reason may be.

I will follow that internal directive from now on as much as possible. I do not want to constantly sacrifice and compromise my own needs in favor of others. This is not fair to me, and my needs have immense value.

 Maybe part of this lack of trust in myself stems from a need to be kind and generous to others. This is all well and good, but by the same token, I need to be kind and generous to myself as much as possible.

If you struggle with trusting your instincts, you are not alone. It is tricky to hone something as intangible as this in which your frame of mind and feelings need to be assessed as objectively and lovingly as possible.

Nonetheless, this is a practice worth exercising. If you cannot advocate for your own feelings and well being, no one else truly will. You are your own best defense.

Trust yourself. The kindness, comfort, and peace of mind you receive as a result will be yours for the taking.

-Roqué





Learning How to Relax

December 11, 2018

Culture and Society / Intention

As it turns out, I am not good at relaxing. It’s taken me a long time to come to terms with this reality, but it is true. I am the kind of person who has an endless curiosity to try new things, a lot of fulfilling projects, and no shortage of responsibilities. My life has been even more hectic now that I am currently a college student. My mind defaults to the next assignment due or the looming exam. This is a challenging way to live, but it is what I have chosen.

So then, how in the world do I get better at relaxing? Here are the facts:

  • I do not like watching a lot of tv.
  • I am an introvert.
  • My mind is constantly thinking about school and/or creative projects.

In this modern day and age, watching a tv show or movie for hours on end is the mode of relaxation for many people. I get it. It is escapism in its easiest and most accessible form. We are currently in a new golden age of television due to the wealth of quality programming being produced. My problem with this form of media consumption is not only how sedentary it is but ultimately how disempowering it is as well. If the vast majority of your daily life is spent sitting down and watching something in front of a screen, what have you actually done with your life? If you add up all of the hours spent watching other people do something with their lives, what could you have done with yours? Write a book? Spend more time with friends and family? Exercise and take care of yourself? Meditation? Ride a bike out in the world? Learn a new language? Learn to play a new instrument? The possibilities are staggeringly endless.

This is why I cannot fathom watching tv as a form of relaxation. It is inactive consumption that is highly addictive.  I watch some shows once in a while, but there is too much to watch for someone who has a lot he wants to do.

Going out with friends is often a challenge for me. Don’t get me wrong.         I love hanging out with friends, but it stands at the opposite end of the spectrum from television. I like to be fully present with people and have engaging conversations. After a while, this is over-stimulation that leaves me a bit exhausted. As an introvert, being by myself always feels better overall.

Well then, obviously relaxation for me does not mean watching television and hanging out with friends.  So now what? Maybe I need to think about simplifying and scaling down what I do to relax. What are activities that require little thought and effort but make me feel good?

  • Playing piano.
  • Napping.
  • Cuddling with my cat.
  • Going for a walk.
  • Riding my bicycle.

Honestly, I started to write “drawing”, “photography”, “writing”, and “reading books”. These activities are certainly  fun and enjoyable, but they require a degree of focus and intention that is not exactly relaxing.  In any case, I need to equate relaxing with simplicity and minimal engagement.

This is a start anyway, but I’ll keep you all updated on my journey of relaxation. I am doing this because I am wary of burnout both as a student and as a creative person. Moments of disengagement, absolute stillness, and rest for the mind have immense value.

As I type this, I am in Sarasota, Florida for some time to visit family and to relax. The beach is calling my name. I need to get on that.

More soon.

-Roqué 


Give Compassion to Difficult People

December 2, 2018

Culture and Society / Intention

What I am writing about this week is not the easiest practice to exercise, but incrementally, I have found it to be a practice in personal wellness with long-term benefits that far exceed the discomfort it creates.

When you are dealing with a difficult person, see and do first through a lens and intention of compassion.

I have come across numerous instances in my life in which people have given me a hard time. Whether it was intentional on their part or not, they became a source of frustration, anger, and resentment. I have led projects in which someone would constantly challenge my authority and speak up about every little thing I said. Other times, people with volatile emotional struggles have derailed plans or made a gathering unbearable. Sometimes, there are just people who are difficult because it is partly in their nature.

This has been a struggle for me, but I have been practicing being compassionate when I come across someone like that. Maybe they are having a bad day or week. Perhaps they may be dealing with a difficult physical condition or did not get enough sleep.  Maybe they’re constipated?

Whatever the reason, compassion starts with a place of empathy and grows from there. If we could try to understand where they are coming from, we can not only gain insight toward a better way to proceed, but we can also start to unload feelings of anger or frustration in a more productive way.

There is, however, one caveat I must throw in. Being compassionate will not necessarily solve anything. The person may continue to be difficult, and there may not be a workable solution whatsoever. In those instances, you have to maintain your own sense of self-respect and uphold your end of the deal regardless of whatever drama may ensue. It may even be helpful to just be honest about your feelings after a good dose of compassion is doled out.

Either way, at some point it becomes clear that the person in question does not have the wherewithal to understand how their actions and words affect others no matter what you do. In those instances, project yourself, keep lines of communication clear and open, and try as best as you can to minimize the fallout. If he/she crashes and burns, they do not have to take the whole ship down with them.

If you color all of your actions with compassion, you give yourself the opportunity to consider the perspective of the difficult person. Being human, we may sometimes be blind to the struggles and circumstances of others, and compassion allows us to account for this.

What I have found as a result of being more compassionate toward others is a significant amount of reduced stress and anxiety. Instead of being reactionary and on the angry offensive, I exercise more patience to let others work themselves and their personal dramas out.  This also allows me to free myself of constantly taking on responsibility for the actions and mistakes of others. If I take the time to understand the source of someone’s behavior, it helps me see when undesirable outcomes have nothing to do with me. After the twelfth time that someone fails to keep up with their responsibility and several attempts at trying to help that person, you can let yourself and your compassion off the hook. The rest is on them.

So, just think about it. If there is someone in school or at your workplace who rubs you the wrong way or antagonizes you, approach them with compassion and a solid dose of your own self-respect. Maybe you will find your own epiphany from the interactions.

Whatever happens, compassion is a true act of kindness, and we can use a whole lot more kindness in the world today.

-Roqué

 

My Misgivings about the Thanksgiving Holiday

November 25, 2018

Culture and Society / Intention

This past Thanksgiving holiday was far from a traditional one for me. On Wednesday, Nov. 22, I started to feel sick. The upper part of my mouth and my throat started to feel tender. This is a feeling I generally get when something is coming over me. A failed attempt at heading to Nashville on Wednesday due to the strange behavior of our van threw me over the edge. I was to be bedridden for the following 24 hours. This effectively eliminated my Thanksgiving plans with my family.

While drinking plenty of fluids and floating in and out of a Nyquil-induced sleep, I could not help but contemplate the meaning of Thanksgiving. For me, the best parts include spending time with family that I do not get to see as often now that I live an hour away and am a full-time college student, as well as  the waves of gratitude and the glorious bounty of delicious food. This is where my warm and fuzzy feelings toward this holiday ends. They are far outweighed by my misgivings. I have a few of those.

Ok, bring out the bullet points:

  • We cannot forget the slaughtering of MILLIONS of Native Americans. In the history books I read growing up, Thanksgiving represented the cooperation and friendliness between European settlers/colonialists and indigenous tribes of the continental US. They all came together to share a large meal. What history books fail to mention is that all of America was savagely taken from Native American tribes with brute force and inhumane cruelty. I cannot resolve this in my head.
  • The blatant commercialism of the holiday promotes greed and materialism. Not only do people spend a ton of money buying turkey and food for a huge meal, but there is immense pressure to spend money on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. America has figured out a way to monetize what is supposed to be a time of sharing and togetherness. This world is bullshit.
  • The strains of salmonella found in turkeys, not to mention the chemicals used to fatten them up, are dangerous to your health. Here is an enlightening article from the Organic Consumers Association:  What Turkey Producers Don’t Want You To Know

More than any other American holiday, Thanksgiving has become increasingly cringe-worthy with each passing year. It is difficult to resolve these serious misgivings that I have.

Nonetheless, the holiday creates a time for me to commune with family and to give thanks for the many joys and gifts we have in our lives. There is still immense value in this.

I want to figure out a way to balance out and acknowledge the truths behind this annual occasion. Perhaps next year, without being sick, I will do something different.

-Roqué

 

My Perspective on the Politics of Elections

November 4, 2018

Culture and Society

Over the last two weeks, President Trump made two very big revelations related to his domestic agenda.

  1. A White House memo was supposedly leaked to clearly define male and female genders in a way that effectively eliminates considerations for transgender people.
  2. He wants to revoke citizenship from children born in the US whose parents are illegal aliens.

I do not think it is a coincidence that these intentions were revealed during the early voting time frame just before the midterm elections on Nov. 6. He’s rallying his base of conservative voters. This is what he does. He makes a few inflammatory claims that tip the balance in the minds of voters whose biases are easily impressionable.

This is the model for political rhetoric in the age of Trump. It has nothing to do with civil discourse, or civility for that matter. Divisiveness is now the name of the game. Trump’s modus operandi is to be so extreme that he’ll capture enough of the conservative vote to make a difference. It seems like a crazy strategy, but this is exactly what won Trump the presidency in the first place.

To make matters worse, this is the kind of behavior that gets higher ratings on tv and radio and more attention overall. News channels eat this up to gain  stronger viewership numbers, but this magnified coverage only serves to spread Trump’s agenda and grant him the attention he wants.

The media is ultimately playing into his hands, and millions of their viewers get exposed to Trump’s agenda.

I’ll be the first to admit that perhaps I might be oversimplifying all of this, but needless to say, the state of American politics feels like it is steadily sinking into a murky, smelly, and precarious place.

I know that there is no use in complaining, and so, I have some suggestions on how we can proceed during any and all highly contentious election periods.

  1. Understand how Trump operates. He makes divisive claims to help Republicans gain votes in order to retain his power in the US House of Representatives and the Senate.
  2. Claim responsibility. We all did this. Maybe we did not vote or pay attention enough. Maybe we did not speak as loud as we could. If we can recognize what we could have done in the past, we have a better idea of what more we can do moving forward.
  3. Modify how we consume news. The news media and its 24-hour news cycles have become part of the problem. There is so much commentary and propaganda going around that it is harder to make sense of it all. I propose that we all become more intentional about taking breaks from our news consumption. On a regular basis and for brief periods, turn off the radio or tv if the name Trump is mentioned. Take a mental break to gain some perspective. You have to quiet all of the other voices in order to truly hear your own.
  4. I have said this before, and I will say it again. Diversify your news sources. Between NPR, The New York Times, Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, CBS, and a whole slew of others, do not rely on only one perspective to get your news. Expose yourself to opposing viewpoints. Do the work to find multiple perspectives.
  5. Register to vote, and then vote AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. If you are dissatisfied with the state of your municipality and community, it is important to note that it may be the result of years of electing ineffective leaders and politicians who are out of touch. Keep your registration current and plan on voting regularly and often. One election cycle with your preferred leadership winning may not be enough to start making significant changes. Think about electing a team of local and state leaders who share your sensibilities and priorities over the long haul. There can be numerous elected positions to vote for in your area such as city council members, sheriff, mayor, governor, and a whole slew of others. This is not easy to do, but there is no harm in trying.

More than anything, do everything you can to think for yourself and to cultivate your own opinions and viewpoints. Find your own voice among all of the grandstanding and hype and use it.

Do this with an awareness of the political climate we have evolved into.

If you know where you stand and you have actively educated yourself, no amount of intimidation, extremism, and propaganda can lead you astray.

-Roqué


An Asian in Las Vegas

October 28, 2018

Culture and Society

Earlier this month, I took a flight to Las Vegas, Nevada, to meet up with some friends from high school. I’ve visited there at different times before as a child, a teenager, and as an adult for my father’s passing around 6 years ago. This visit, however, was the first time I got the chance to truly observe the culture that exists in Sin City. It was eye-opening to me in terms of the blatant and unapologetic way that money is the lifeblood and compass of this corner of America.

I spent the bulk of my Vegas weekend hanging out with my classmates. We got to catch up and make up for loss time over the last several years. As a group we went out to eat at a buffet at one of the hotel casinos, and we toured the strip and the old strip.

After our buffet lunch, I tried my hand at a roulette table and lost $22.00. I gave up after that. During my last night, I stayed at a hotel, and after some persuasive encouragement, I tried my hand at some slot machines. After losing or breaking even on a couple of different machines, I won $150.

I stopped after that, and I’m glad I did. 

As I walked the strip and through some casinos, I made some observations that were a bit unnerving.

  1. At least in the casinos, there were cameras EVERYWHERE. Tons of them. Hundreds? Maybe thousands? They were all encased in these little black globes that popped out of ceilings and corners. I understand that casinos want to catch people who cheat at gambling, but it’s all a little too big brother for me. I imagine that no cough, sneeze, or conversation goes unnoticed.  That’s creepy.
  2. Every hotel has a casino.  Every casino has a huge buffet. All casinos give their patrons free drinks. It seems to me that this is the perfect equation to seduce people into staying for a long while. People are almost hypnotized and satiated into a comfortable environment that is conducive to gambling your money away with reckless abandon. 
  3. Smoking is allowed in every casino.  It certainly seemed that way. The smell of nicotine wafted in the air and lingered as I walked through. For the employees and patrons who have to be in this environment all of the time, this cannot be healthy for their lungs and their bodies. In most places everywhere else in the country, smoking takes place outdoors as it should so that non-smokers are not unfairly subjected to the smoke. The people in Las Vegas do not seem to mind.
  4. Casinos operate 24 hours a day. People gamble or play at slot machines literally all of the time and any time. If you want to play black jack at 4 AM, you can do so in multiple places!
  5. Gamblers seemed like zombies. I observed many people with drinks in hand intently pressing buttons and lulled into a relaxed state.
  6. All of the slot machines are now digital. At what point did everyone decide that this was okay? Could it be possible that each machine is now more rigged than they were before? Couldn’t they now operate under some sort of algorithm that manages people’s wins and losses? To me, this seemed like bullshit and a total scam. Miraculously, I won my $150, but I can’t help but wonder if this was a way to induce me into playing more.  Algorithms and technology can be powerful entities.
  7. There are slot machines in the airport.  Enough said.

Clearly, money and the hunger for it is what drives this city. This hunger is its ultimate commodity, and there is a design that feeds this hunger in perpetuity. The allure of winning lots of money is palpable. If you are desperate for cash, this is where you can feed that desire.

Of course, it’s not all bad. Las Vegas is a spectacle in and of itself. If I return to Sin City, I may spend more time taking in the shows than the casinos. They offer entertainment value and lots of beautiful creativity that I can geek out on. If you are a foodie, those massive buffets will make you happy.

Well, without further ado, here are some photos from my trip:


The experience of visiting Las Vegas felt surreal. The gambling culture and the hoards of tourists made it a bit jarring for me, but the whole experience was saved by the presence of some great friends from high school.

Maybe that’s the gist of it all. If you have to go Vegas, go with good friends. If anything, the human connections you make can overshadow the industry of money in this city. That would make the experience truly worthwhile.

-Roqué

My Personal Journey As a Pianist, Part 4

September 24, 2018

Culture and Society / Piano Performance

When you grow up on a tropical island surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean, there is a part of you that will always live there no matter how far you go and how different your life becomes. I used to spend hours sitting on the beach, lost in my thoughts as waves crashed onto the shore.

When I left the island, I left my ocean-the place where I went so seek solace, comfort, and joy. I boarded a Hawaiian Airlines flight when I was 17 years old with my tear-stained face. I said goodbye, begrudgingly and willingly. I knew that my whole life was about to change.

For a long time, I walked this earth without my ocean. I did not have a place where I felt grounded and safe, where I could feel calm and at peace.

Looking back, it was this emptiness I felt that drew me to the piano.

The piano became my ocean.

At an old church building where I once worked in Charlotte, NC, there was an upright Yamaha piano in the sanctuary that I discovered when I was wondering around on my break one day. Upon inquiring, the folks who ran that church told me that I was welcome to play it whenever I wanted as long as there wasn’t anyone using it to prepare for a service. I took their permission and ran with it.

I must have spent hundreds of hours–late nights, early mornings, late afternoons, evenings, and all points in between–playing that piano. I felt so safe sitting there, and it inspired me to play my own music. I composed the bulk of my first album “Seahorses” at that very spot.

From a sonic perspective, the piano can be as thunderous and as gentle as the ocean. There can be so much power with the touch of every finger. I could lose myself in its undulating rhythms and feel every bit of the emotion I poured into it coming back to me.

I found the piano at a time when I needed it, and at a time when I was in a dark place in my life.

I heard its crashing waves, and it heard my loneliness.

This instrument became my guiding force, my sense of safety, and my private haven from everything in my life that was going so wrong.

The piano continues to be all of these things and more.

I still miss the ocean, but thankfully, through the highs and lows in my life, I found something just as mighty and meaningful that sustains my spirit.

I sit at a piano, and I feel greater than and better than who I was before. I sit there for hours dreaming my dreams and lost in my thoughts. All of this crashes into me every time, and the air and space around me gets filled with sound.

Life doesn’t get better than this.

-Roqué



My Personal Journey as a Pianist, Part 3

September 16, 2018

Culture and Society / Intention / Piano Performance

There is one word that sums up the vast majority of my time as a pianist.

Practice.

Yes, lots and lots and lots of practice.

There is more practice than the time spent actually composing music, writing lyrics, being creative, and performing. It is time spent getting a fingering sequence to sound effortless on the piano, hours learning a new piece by playing it over and over again until it sounds and feels right, and fingering exercises to maintain and enhance the flow and dexterity of movement on the piano.

This is the part of being a musician that most people would find dull and uninteresting. The constant repetition of music and singing during practice would drive most people insane. It’s also not particularly glamorous. I actually like to practice in my pajamas and under the most mundane and comfortable conditions possible. If I am practicing a new finished piece that I am excited about, I will sit there for HOURS meticulously working on several details until I am playing it just right.

It is ironic that I put so much time into practicing now when it was the repetition of nursery songs when I was young that pushed me away from learning how to play. The difference was that, in time, I grew more patient, and I eventually recognized the deep value of practice.

Sure, practice makes perfect, as the cliché goes, but it’s actually about more than just getting better at playing. Over the years, I have found that those rare moments of inspiration-those lightning bolts of a new song that light a fire under you-they would not happen without the tedium and persistence of practice. The repetition and memorization buys you the physical space and time to seek out musical textures and understand them. You build this understanding into a personal catalogue in your musical brain.

It’s also like going to the gym for your fingers. You build muscles and muscle memory every time you repeat something. Your hands get stronger. Your body grows to know the rhythms, ebbs, flows, highs, and lows. Your ear grows more refined and selective.

Practice is the act of growing what you know, of cultivating an instinctual and multi-sensory language that only you can understand.

I practice every day, and I have done so for many years. If I do not manage to play on a piano for some reason, I try to play another instrument. My ukulele and cello enrich me as much as my first love.

For those of you who might be wondering, my piano practice is built on a foundation of fingering exercises from the book, Hanon: The Virtuoso Pianist in 60 Exercises for the Piano. I have a vintage, old, and worn-out copy that I have used forever and a new one that I lend out to aspiring new pianists or for travel.  I have done these exercises so much that they feel more like meditation to me. I focus on the flow of movement of my fingers and the rest of the world fades out into the background.

I love to practice on the piano just as much as I love performing on it. Along with writing, it has served as the deeper infrastructure for all of my creative work.

I do it as constantly, vigilantly, and lovingly as possible.

-Roqué


My Personal Journey As a Pianist, Part 2

September 9, 2018

Culture and Society

I dream of Liberace.

Ok. Not really. But I do dream of what he represents.

Pure, unbridled showmanship. The man was a star!!!

Flashy. Daring. Unabashed. Not to mention his outstanding musicianship!

When I first started performing (like in public and on a stage), I was certainly no Liberace. For my first time at an open mic, I played and sang the first song I ever wrote on my own. Of course, this was months after I actually started writing it. I practiced playing it like crazy. When I finally got on stage, the shy version of me took over, and it was over before it began .  .  .

I started by saying, “Hi, umm, I’m just gonna play a little song for you tonight. And stuff? I hope you like it?”

Ugh. I did that annoying thing where everything I said sounded like a question. I did not own that stage and claim it for myself. Instead, I took out a loan with a high interest rate and rented it for five minutes.

Maybe it wasn’t as bad as I remember. But somehow, I think it was.

Now, in hindsight, it’s okay that my first time playing on a stage made me look incontinent. It’s actually part of what made me who I am. That first time was at a venue called The Evening Muse in Charlotte, NC, where I once lived. I would go to many more open mics on that stage later on. Eventually, I would move to Nashville, TN and start doing open mics at places like Cafe Coco and Douglas Corner Cafe. Then, I would play my own shows at places like 3rd and Lindsley, the Exit/In, and BB Kings Blues Bar.

If I didn’t let that shy little Asian take that stage for the first time and feebly go where I was terrified of going, I would not be where I am now.

An important part of my journey as a performing pianist was my willingness to keep going and keep trying.  If there is one thing I have learned from history and in life, it’s that deep, substantive change does not happen overnight. It takes its own time across many years to happen.

I wasn’t always going to be that shy little person on stage, and I’m very happy about that. Sometimes, I like to imagine that the shy version of myself now sits in the audience staring back at me as I play. (Looking like he did a prim and proper #2 at the appropriate facilities, no less.)

He’s smiling and beaming proudly.

Liberace, here I come.

-Roqué

My Personal Journey as a Pianist, Part 1

September 2, 2018

Culture and Society

This post is the first instalment of a series of remembrances.

I have been wanting to document my journey as a pianist and a musician for posterity. People ask me all the time how long I’ve been playing, and I always give the same answer. Well, this time, I want to go into a little more detail about how I evolved as a performing musician. There will be places and faces named and information on how I developed (and continue to develop) my technique. Someone once told me that I should write about what I know.

Performing at the piano is what I know.

I remember being 7 years old. My parents enrolled me in a small piano school on the island of American Samoa where I grew up. I was ushered into a room that had several desk stalls, and each stall had a small electronic keyboard. There were what I felt at the time to be oppressively dull lessons in which I had to press the keys down in a continual motion OVER and OVER again. Looking back, I can understand the formative value of what I was doing, but it was incredibly boring nonetheless.

In time, I progressed into simple children’s songs like “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, but we had to play these songs OVER and OVER again.  By this point, a few months into the lessons, I was OVER IT! I begged my Mom to stop taking me. I remember the look of disappointment on her face when this happened. As a child in a small village in the Philippines, she did not have the opportunity to learn how to play such a glorious instrument, and she relished  the notion that her own children could hone such a gift. This was not to be the case. My older sister Lette was also enrolled to take lessons, but she was bored out of her mind as well. We wanted to be kids running free, playing games, and getting dirty. We lived on a gorgeous tropical island for goodness sake! It was always more fun to be outside.

It is interesting how my home environment as a child inadvertently prepared me to become a musician. My parents loved playing their cassette tapes and vinyl LP’s. My dad was always keen to have a top of the line stereo system that came with large speakers. He often played the Beatles while my Mom played lots of Elvis. Abba, Frank Sinatra, and Englebert Humperdinck were also on continuous rotation.

There was ALWAYS music playing. It was part of the fabric of our every day lives.

Being the third child out of four also meant that I was subjected to the musical tastes of my older siblings. My brother, in his teenage years, LOVED 80’s heavy metal. I shared a bedroom with him growing up, and he was always blasting music from bands like Def Leppard, Metallica, Megadeth, and Guns N’ Roses.  My sister was all about the boys. New Kids on the Block and Boys to Men were some of her staples.  There was plenty of R&B and pop music blaring all the time.

My own musical tastes basically revolved around catchy pop music. Culture Club’s album “Color By Numbers” was the first album I begged my Mom to buy for me.  Wham (and later George Michael’s solo work) and Michael Jackson were also big favorites.  Sting’s solo album “.  .  . Nothing Like the Sun” and The Cure’s “Disintegration” were also on heavy rotation on my own stereo.

Clearly, all kinds of sounds, styles, and textures hovered around me across my childhood and adolescence.  My family unknowingly cultivated a deep appreciation for the art of song in my life.  The simple act of listening intently to music and the daily practice/enjoyment of it made such a profound difference to me. This would help me develop my own ear for melody, rhyming, tonality, and rhythm.

The rest, with some curious stops, starts, turns, and pivots, would unravel from there .  .  .

-Roqué