San Francisco - Greetings From The San Francisco Chapter Board: Dr. John-Carlos Perea

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Dr. John-Carlos Perea GRAMMY Winner/Educator/Ethnomusicologist/Multi-instrumentalist/Author

San Francisco Governor


Photo by: Stephen Butler, Canyon Records, 2011

How/When did you get your start?

I got my start as a bass player during my high school years through Dr. Dee Spencer at San Francisco State University. She allowed me to attend and perform in summer jazz combos in the music department at SFSU. That led to meeting saxophonist Dr. Jose “Dr. Loco” Cuellar who gave me a chance to sub in his Rockin’ Jalapeño Band and to take the bass chair in his smaller conjuntos. Those associations at SFSU also led to early opportunities working with saxophonist Francis Wong and drummer Eliot Humberto Kavee. Playing all of those different styles and learning how to hang really shaped who I am as a musician today. My start as a pow-wow singer and cedar flautist came through my parents and Dr. Bernard Hoehner. Dr. Hoehner invited me to sing with his drum group, The Blue Horse Singers, and taught me the songs and worldview that I’m fortunate enough to continue sharing with new generations of students as a professor at San Francisco State University.

What was the most interesting experience you’ve had while working?

Being nominated for a GRAMMY and then winning a GRAMMY as a member of the Paul Winter Consort for the album Crestone.

Who is someone you would like to work with and why?

Ainu musician Oki Kano because of the way he articulates his indigenous identity as Ainu while also taking part in global musical conversations.

What is your favorite piece of equipment and why?

I’m currently loving GarageBand on my iPad. The program turns the tablet into a portable music sketchpad that is really quick and easy to manipulate.

Where/how do you hear about new music?

Browsing the aisles at Amoeba Records in San Francisco.

What artist or band should people know right now?

Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin and Harriet Tubman are two favorites that are providing new ways to think about what creative music sounds like.

Growing up, which artists inspired you the most?

As a bass player: Phil Lesh, Jimmy Garrison, and James Jamerson. As a Native American musician: Jim Pepper, R. Carlos Nakai, and Ben Black Bear, Sr.

What advice would you give to a young artist just starting out in the music business?

My bass teacher David Motto used to remind me that every gig, no matter how big or prestigious, is in the end just another doorway to the next gig. It’s a really good reminder to stay in the present and enjoy the music you are playing in the moment and not to get hung up on something that hasn’t happened yet.

Do you believe mentorship is important? Who were your mentors early on in your career and what impact did they have on your experience in the business?

Mentorship is incredibly important to a career in music! I’d say my first mentors were my parents, they helped me understand what I did and did not want out of a career in music. Following them, my bass teacher David Motto was a huge influence. David understood that a lesson isn’t just about technique, it’s about learning how to hang and, in doing so, to make YOUR music whether you are holding your instrument or not.