I was born and raised in the beautiful city of Chicago to immigrant parents from Mexico who love a good fiesta. Almost all my early memories are filled with those of family parties. Baptisms, birthdays, saint’s days, First Communions, Confirmations, Quinceñeras, weddings, barbecues at random forest preserves and at Lake Michigan after my dad’s baseball games almost every Sunday in the summer. Oh, and of course, your usual suspects: 4th of July, Dia de los Muertos/Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New years and Easter. Seems like your typical family parties, so that doesn’t sound too different than what you probably grew up doing. But I have to mention one thing that might differentiate us: I have about 100 first primos (cousins)!
Yup, my mom and dad come from classic Mexican families which are typically huge. Growing up I was told that it was because they needed farm hands and babysitters, but I think what my grandparents needed was a TV… My dad comes from a family of 10 and my dear mom comes from a family of 14. Minus my parents that’s 22 tias and tios (aunts and uncles), then you add their kids… I have first cousins old enough to be my parents and some young enough to be my children. We typically have to rent a hall for our Thanksgiving fiestas. Needless to say, with that amount of family, we pretty much have a reason to party all year long. Of course we always had a lot of greeeaaaat food and drinks, but one thing that always stood out for me was la musica…
The music was always blasting from the time you arrived to the moment you left. Sometimes it came from the instruments my uncles played or the mariachis or trios my family would hire, and sometimes it blasted from a grabadora (boom box). Of course it was mostly traditional Latin styles like Mariachi, Corridos, Quebradita, Cumbia, Merengue and Salsa, but my family was also fans of the American pop, rock and oldies… On any given moment Juan Gabriel would invite us off the dinner table to “Noa Noa”, we’d cha cha to La Sonora Santanera’s “La Boa”, then Banda Machos would have us stomping “La Culebra (The Snake)”. Selena would make us shake our “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom”. Juan Luis Guerra turned us all into love hypochondriacs with “La Bilirrubina”. La Sonora Dinamita advised us against messing with their “Cucu”. Eddie Santiago would summon the “Lluvia (Rain)” then suddenly, we’d get real weird and “Wooly Bully”, dance “La Bamba”, do “The Twist”, and “Twist and Shout”. Phewwww! And this was all pre-cake…
We all took turns playing DJ and danced and danced until someone ended up starting a chisme (rumor) or said something to offend someone in the family and a fight would break out. Yeah, that’s right, a fight. If you have ever seen a novela (Spanish soap opera) you’d understand we Latinos can be a bit dramatic sometimes. Ok, very, but it’s only because we’re sooo passionate. Anyways, after a few un-repeatable words and a couple of tears everyone would make up, and la fiesta would continue as if nothing ever happened. As the party progressed there would come a point where the music would be taken over by my older cousins who played American classic 80’s and 90’s hits. Latinos are usually no stranger to a dance floor, but I have to say it was pretty awkward to see our older cousins, aunts, and uncles dance to American music and try to “Walk Like An Egyptian”. It was also very awkward to translate the lyrics to Madonna’s “Like A Virgin” to my tias and tios who didn’t understand what she was saying. Especially when you’re 9…
We partied til the break of dawn until we could no longer dance. That’s when Mexican drinking music kings, Vicente Fernandez and Ramon Ayala, plus their good friend tequila, would join forces, ride into our party via the grabadora, and elevate everyone’s confidence to the level where no matter what happened, we will always be “El Rey (The King)”. Even if after this night we ended up in “Un Rinconcito en el Cielo (A Little Corner in the Sky)”, it didn’t sound half bad.
This relationship with music continued away from home throughout grammar school. I attended a predominately Irish Catholic Grammar school on the Northside of Chicago. Not only did I learn English here, but I also heard the bagpipes for the first time and learned to céilí. Yup that’s right, I river-danced like Billy Elliot every Saint Patrick’s Day. It was a very musical school. We had an amazing music teacher named Bernadette Nastali, who would come in once a week and teach us about music. I also took advantage of the music classes offered and took Saxophone and Piano lessons. I even received a gold medal for one of my piano recitals and was a member of the orchestra. I know right? My sister, who played the flute and cello beautifully, accuses me to this day of taking more than a few bars off here and there, but I will neither admit nor deny that.
High school and College introduced me to even more music, as I began to make friends from all over the country and around the world. It didn’t matter what it was or where it came from. I was already listening to music in more than one language, so why not listen to French or Portuguese music. Heck, why not check out some Arabic tunes. I didn’t understand the words, but it was beautiful and different, and I wanted to hear it and know it. That’s the beauty of growing up in a melting pot city like Chicago. You can meet people from all over the globe and if you’re open to it, you can learn about all kinds of different music and the cultures that created them. For me there is nothing like falling in love with a new melody for the first time. I even got a job at a local pro audio store to be around music freaks like myself. That’s where I blew my paychecks buying turntables and records in order to teach myself how to DJ.
At first I did it just for fun. But as I got better, it became my addiction. I’d spend hours practicing my blends and even more hours crate digging at the great records stores here in Chicago. Shortly after I mustered enough confidence, I began DJing college parties. Then some of my DJ friends invited me to play a few guest spots at clubs and next thing I know, I was the resident DJ at various clubs around town working 3-4 nights a week. As the resident DJ, I was also responsible for promoting the night, setting the vibe, selecting the music, and booking guest DJs. The booking part was my first dive into artist relations. I had to negotiate my talent’s time, their fee, as well as their drink tickets. After some rough first negotiations, I quickly learned that booking the right talent, being polite, being honest, and professional went a long way. After getting the hang of it, I quickly built a reputation, not only as a pretty decent DJ, but as a respected booker/promoter as well.
When college graduation came, my and my parent’s investment could not go to waste. I found myself my first real gig and put the DJ thing on hold. It was an office job that was very exciting at first, but after a couple years there, I realized that something wasn’t right. I missed being around music. Obviously, I still heard it, but I wasn’t actively involved with it. I quit shortly thereafter and ended up back at the audio store while I figured out my next move. One day when I was in back counting stock, I realized I wanted to work for an audio manufacturer, but not just any company. I wanted to work for Shure. I’ve been dropping Shure’s M44-7 needles on my records and giving shout-outs from an SM58 this whole time as a DJ. And better yet, they are right here in my own backyard.
I applied for a job at Shure and didn’t hear back right away. Then one day out of the blue, I received a call from Shure’s HR department, and they informed me that they’d like me to come in. I was so excited to finally get my foot in the door. Shortly after, I was offered a job as a Marketing Coordinator and when the Artist Relations position opened up, I jumped on it. I’ve been here at Shure since January 2006 and I am very blessed to be able to spend my work days listening to music, talking about music and sharing it with my music-loving colleagues, identifying artists we should partner with, and building relationships with them for the best microphone company in the world. So how did I get into Artist Relations?
La musica brought me here, and I’m glad to be home.