Giving a Hoot
Meet the controversial Mexican spotted owl

The Music Man
Brandon Perrault provides the soundtrack for Grant County

Happy Trails
The Gila Back Country Horsemen celebrate 10 years

Ready to SNAP
Is the Spay & Neuter Awareness Program running out of time?

In Loco's Footsteps
Hiking the Peloncillos where Apaches held off the US Cavalry


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About the cover

  D e s e r t   E x p o s u r e  February 2011

Brandon Perrault

Page: 2

Perrault shrugs off such compliments, insisting that "it's important to acknowledge and accept our past, including our struggles and suffering. I want to write music that can help heal some of the sadness, anger and misunderstanding around such things. I believe we live in a place of great healing."

This is small-town America, however, and sales of his various recordings don't yield enough income for Perrault to live on. "I think the secret to surviving here economically is being open and available to a number of different things," he laughs. "As in the rest of rural New Mexico, our people have to do a little bit of everything in order to make it."

Besides performing — which occasionally involves travel to other states — this Renaissance man teaches singing and guitar, sells music gear, and writes jingles for commercials. Perrault's clients for the 30- or 60-second spots have included Ambank, Cellular Connection, Cassie Health Center for Women, Ft. Bayard Federal Credit Union and State Sen. Howie Morales.

Another source of income has been teaching in public schools. His first assignment was as a Spanish instructor, then as the only teacher at a one-room school in Gila Hot Springs. "It was a baptism by fire," he says, with a chuckle and roll of his eyes. "I was teaching students from kindergarten through 12th grade under one roof. But it was a beautiful experience because the older kids always helped the younger ones." Perrault transitioned to a post at Cobre teaching music, which went on hiatus last October. In due time, he expects to return to local classrooms.

"I love kids," he says, gesturing at a photo tacked on the wall that shows his eldest son, Oliver, playing football. "Family is very important to me."

The divorced father of five, ages 1 to 15, Perrault himself is the eldest of nine children. Big families are the norm for his clan: His father, Ray, boasted a dozen siblings. Musical talent seems to run in the line, too. As children, Brandon's father and aunt sang for tips outside a popular tavern in Mimbres. Now Brandon's son Oliver, a drummer, plays trumpet in the Cobre High School band and his 13-year-old sister, Gracie, is blessed with a remarkable singing voice. One of her ancestors was an Italian opera singer.

"I don't know if they thought it was something that ran in the family, but my parents knew I had something," Perrault says, citing the gift of his first guitar and his mom's earlier present of a $400 accordion. "That was a lot of money for my parents. They and my grandparents have helped me in many ways with my music and singing."

Perhaps genetics also endowed Perrault with his entrepreneurial spirit and embrace of diversity. This legacy traces to Great-grandfather George O. Perrault, a French-Canadian native of Quebec who became one of the first Anglo settlers along the Mimbres River during the mid-19th century. George admired the valley while a sergeant in the Union Army's California Column during the Civil War, stationed in Mesilla. When George's unit disbanded in 1866, he moved to Pinos Altos, then to rich bottomland south of San Lorenzo. The soldier subsequently met and married a Mexican woman south of the border, who died giving birth to their child. After operating a farm and ranch in the Mimbres Valley, Perrault oversaw a general store, mine, and orchard in Hillsboro, where he married Mexico-born Adelaida Alert.

In contrast, the maternal wing of Brandon Perrault's family is said to include direct descendants of the Apache leader Geronimo and a Native American scout for the US Army nicknamed Apache Jim. The irony of having ancestors on both sides of the so-called Indian War that plagued Grant County into the 1880s is not lost on the songwriter, who wants "to write about those Apache roots. Whenever I pass the spring along Highway 180, south of Hurley, where [captured local Apache leader] Mangas Colorados was tortured and killed by the US Army, I bow my head and say a prayer."

For Perrault, our region is a place of healing as well as suffering. Music, he says, can be a catalyst for restoration and compassion. "It truly is a universal language," Perrault believes. "It touches something in us: our bodies, our souls, our consciousness. Music is a part of every special occasion, from birth through death."

Concerned about cutbacks in funding for arts education in schools, Perrault articulates a conviction that "the arts promote peace, understanding and values. I think the more we can promote all types of art, from every culture, the more peace we will have in the world and in our lives." Tuning into the creative intuition that has guided his own career, he believes, has enriched his life without measure. (Perrault won't even accept a guitar to sell "unless I like it, unless I feel something about it that touches me.")

Perrault trusts a gut instinct, an inner compass, that forges a bond through music with a community — and a land — where his roots have become deeply entwined through the passage of many generations.

"I find that everything I do that comes from a sort of universal presence — call it God if you want — seems very easy for me. Such things come so naturally that it feels like imaginary hands are helping me. Sometimes I feel like a song I'm composing is already written on the great hard-drive of the universe and I'm simply tapping into it. And I am very grateful for that."

Perrault pauses to consider the relationship of his work to something bigger. "I feel we are all spiritual beings having a human experience here on Earth," he concludes. "I feel we are one part in the physical world, one part in the spiritual world.... And I believe that God is the 'great allower,' allowing us simply to be who we are, without judging."

Brandon Perrault's music CDs are sold at his performances or The Candy Bouquet, 2065 Memory Lane, Silver City. Learn more at www.brandonperrault.com or by calling (575) 590-7776. Check Desert Exposure's monthly events calendar for notices of Perrault's upcoming appearances.

Richard Mahler is a writer and tour guide based in Silver City.
Learn more at www.richardmahler.com

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