An Artist's Statement

In this time of civil struggle and social unrest that has permeated our society, coupled with the required confines of quarantine due to the global pandemic, I find it necessary to reflect on my own beliefs and the intent of my work with regards to how it impacts our community. In doing so, I want to share a bit of insight into who I am and the purpose of my work.

I come from a multicultural household, and the complexities of that have shaped my life in ways that I'm only beginning to understand. My mother is White, her heritage consisting of Irish and Norwegian ancestry. My father was Hispanic, and his family came from México. Both were born and raised in the US, and my sisters and I grew up in the Chicago suburbs, where our neighbors and friends were predominantly white. Though both of my parents spoke Spanish, we grew up primarily speaking English. We celebrated American holidays and watched American movies and TV. For many years I didn't care even for Mexican cuisine; my family still teases me about ordering ham sandwiches at our favorite Mexican restaurant when I was a kid. In my defense, they were delicious sandwiches.

What I didn't realize was that growing up I had always favored the White side of my life. No one taught me to do this, it was just how it was. I spoke the language, I was more familiar with the customs, and I was comfortable in that world. I visited with my family on my dad's side often, and they were always loving and inclusive, but their world seemed strange and different from my own. The sounds, the smells, and the energy were all foreign to me. I loved my time with them, but looking back on it now it felt like an excursion outside of my world into another, knowing that shortly after I would be returning back to my own familiar "safe" space.

For most of my life I have pursued what I would consider Eurocentric aspirations. My educational and artistic goals were all based in white European traditions. The languages I studied were all Western European. The people I surrounded myself with were predominantly white. Those things in and of themselves are not bad in any way, but now I see them as extremely lacking. In my own myopic view, all of my dreams and goals were based in a white western world, and I never considered that my talents could have been used outside of that.

That changed in the last few years, and it started with one friend: Alejandro Magallón, a fellow classically trained singer who hails from México but has maternal roots from Minnesota. He and I began a musical collaboration that started as a classical recital but blossomed into a true appreciation for my Mexican heritage. His friendship, and the subsequent friendships of our fellow bandmates and the communities to whom we've played, opened a connection within me to the roots that I had been ignoring. Without realizing it, I was missing and yearning for this side of my identity, and now that it has opened I have found so much more passion, life, vibrancy, purpose, and opportunity in my work. Furthermore, all the skills that I focused on in my classical training fit perfectly within this new world, my European and Latinx heritages complimenting each other beautifully.

If all that started from just one relationship, what more could I gain by expanding the diversity of authentic relationships in my life? How many more perspectives can I gain by that influence? How many more could I influence by my own experiences?

Through my work in music and theater in the Twin Cities, I have met and befriended individuals from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences: racial, cultural, religious, sexual, gender, and socioeconomic. My life is all the better for knowing each one of them, and I am grateful for everything they teach me. They help me to see the world. They help me to understand myself. They inspire me to speak up and speak out.

The recent murders, protests, demonstrations, and violent government responses nationwide have highlighted the long history of systemic violence towards and oppression of Black people, Indigenous people, Latinx people, People of Color, the LGBTQI community, the poor, and those who have been made powerless. Some have argued with me against the ongoing existence of this kind of inequality in our country, but among my influences are those who have experienced and continue to experience unequal treatment firsthand. I trust their stories. I listen to them, believe them, and now, with our social media capabilities, I have seen what happens to them. These are my friends, family, and colleagues, and I will stand with them.

As for me, I am a man who passes as white, which I am, and for the most part I have not been hindered by our country’s racism and descrimination. But I am also a Latinx Person of Color. Compared to my colleagues, I look different and speak with an accent. I enjoy all the comforts and privileges of being a white man in America. Yet I cannot count the number of times I have been asked, "Where are you from?" in tones ranging from curiosity to hostility. I enjoy the freedom to travel wherever I want, but I've also been pulled out of line at the airport many times for "random searches." Depending on my facial hair and skin tone, one's perception of me can vacillate between exotic and foreign, with the latter carrying an assumption of threat. I may not experience the day-to-day prejudice and bias at a level that others do, but I am still reminded of the reality of race, gender, and sexuality bias in our country in how others perceive and interact with me. 

So how does this affect my work as a singer, actor, and musician? It guides the collaborations I seek, so that I can continue to learn and grow from diverse viewpoints. It focuses me on music, plays, and stories that better represent authentic experiences of people from differing cultures. When I am leading a project, I am actively working to listen and make every voice heard; when I am invited to speak, or to sing, I aspire to use the gift of my voice to its truest and fullest capability in order to share my thoughts freely. With all of my resources and talents, I am striving to listen, understand, and connect with people. In doing so, I want to encourage empathetic communication between others as well, because I believe that we will only thrive when we all thrive.

To that end, I support the work needed to counter racism and actively promote equity and equality in our society.That means I support women’s rights, gender identity rights, disability rights, GLBTQI rights, BIPOC rights, immigrant rights; Human rights, in all the varieties of ways that we exist. This is a marathon in which I am only in the beginning stages, but it is the path I choose moving forward. Thankfully, there are a myriad of resources and role models who can guide me in my efforts.

This is who I am, and this is the work to which I am dedicating my life. It is my hope that you, in following my work, will also see the benefit of this course as you enjoy the output of my artistry.

Thank you.