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The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Lourdes Pérez serenades City College
Lourdes Perez, performing one of her song in the Performing Arts Center on Tuesday, March 26,2019. Photo by Andrew Ortiz | Staff Photographer | [email protected]

by Luan Nguyen | Staff Writer | [email protected]

Puerto Rican-born musician and poet Lourdes Pérez came to the campus Performing Arts Complex in late March to lead a songwriting workshop for students of all backgrounds and hold a follow-up free concert backed by City College music students featuring songs from her recorded albums.

Three of the eight performed pieces March 26 were drawn from Pérez music project “Dulce Vigilante: Remembranzas de la Region Oeste de Puerto Rico,” a project that Pérez launched to put to music her mother’s childhood stories from the west side of the island of Puerto Rico.

“It’s my mother’s story, but it’s also my grandmother’s and the people of the region’s stories,” explained Pérez.

The song “Paloma Urbana” (“Urban doves”) was accompanied by City College students Parchia Cha on piano and (Nancy) Sze Ting Yuen on violin, who had first met each other a few days before at the “Compose Yourself” workshop March 22 led by Pérez and her spouse and artistic collaborator, Annette D’Armata.

The “Compose Yourself” workshop brought together students, staff and the general public, musicians and non-musicians, to individually and collectively compose songs. Some participants arrived with musical instruments or unfinished drafts of songs.

The group activity part of the workshop asked participants to call out any phrases and words that were on their minds. With those phrases and words, participants wrote song lyrics in pairs. The outcome was six different lyrical compositions (two written by Perez and D’Armata) from which the group worked on collectively to find accompanying chords and melody.

Students Cha and Yuen struck up a collaboration during the individual activity part of the workshop and ended up improvising multiple pieces together.

According to Cha, she received a text from Pérez (as did Yuen) after the workshop to propose that they accompany her on the song “Paloma Urbana.”

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Cha watched Pérez from the front row and said she thought it was a very emotional piece for Pérez to perform.

“When she read it, she felt all the emotions that possibly her mom felt—going through all those memories,” said Cha. “She probably felt all that.”

The event was sponsored by the City College Global Studies Program, Hispanic Serving Institution, and the Cultural Awareness Center, and was hosted by Professor Riad Bahhur, coordinator of the Global Studies Program and a longtime admirer of Pérez’s music.

“In some ways, each and every one of her songs is a love song,” said Bahhur. “It’s about love of humanity, love of resistance, love of sacrifice—and also seeing the pain and injustice that she witnesses and then writing about it and singing about it.”

To aspiring student musicians at City College, Pérez left the following advice:

“You have to know that there is a sound that inhabits inside yourself you have to explore and find what that is,” said Pérez.

Pérez also at the same time encouraged young musicians to be open to sounds and music from other cultures and to protect themselves from crushing, negative criticism.

“I see some of the things that are happening. Very talented people are getting crushed, their dreams are getting crushed, you can’t allow that to happen. You have to be very careful,” said Pérez. “Learn, play and have fun. Don’t let the music trap you. Don’t get trapped or dogmatic about what one concept should be, or what music is. Music is so many things. So don’t get dogmatic. Just open up. And learn.”

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