The Lively Arts
The Sounds of Silver City
For a town this small, the local music scene is big.
Meet some of the people behind the performances.
By Twana Sparks[First of two parts]
Question: What is the musical community of Silver City? Answer: Astoundingly diverse and astonishingly talented for such a little isolated town. One is unlikely to make a living as professional musician in a small rural place. That requires touring, extensive promotion, connections to larger resources, and so forth. So people who make music here are not motivated by financial gain; they do it because they love to make music. Whether it is an avocation of the working, a hobby of the independently wealthy, or a pursuit of the retired, local audiences benefit.
By way of preliminary explanation, open microphone (open mic) events occur every week, at which anyone may bring their music before a semi-captive audience. Often there is angelic harmony or someone who brings to mind an old Billie Joel lyric, "Man, what are YOU doing here?" There is risk involved. The mic is open to rare psychotic banshee screaming, less pleasant than a root canal without anesthesia. Currently, open mic is hosted at Diane's Restaurant on Sundays at 6 p.m. and at the Buckhorn in Pinos Altos on Mondays at 7 p.m. Come listen or tune up your didgeridoo or theremin and just show up.
Mathematics professor by day, guitarist by night; that would be Dr. Al Arasteh, who performs under the name Farhad. Moving from Tehran to New Mexico by way of Uxbridge, England, makes him a fairly unique individual in the desert southwest. The son of a bank manager in Iran, Arasteh began English as a second language after elementary school. He ultimately earned a PhD in mathematics at New Mexico State University, and landed at Western New Mexico University to teach. At 19, an older brother encouraged him to take up guitar, but only if he would do so seriously. He started with classical training, but fell under the spell of flamenco artist Paco Pena around 1994
He found flamenco more complex and difficult, with more varied techniques than classical, making it harder on his hands. Arasteh says the new music "scared the hell out of" him, because he realized how much dedication it would take to acquire the skills and sound about which he had become passionate. Twenty years and at least four teachers later, he has a grasp of the rules and exceptions that make up the definition of flamenco.
Don Pointer, a retired obstetrician in Buckhorn, NM, turned out to be a hidden treasure in Arasteh's evolution. An excellent guitar builder, Pointer also is an instructor in the forms of flamenco. Finding success at each form was highly motivating, as is the regular opportunity to perform at Diane's as a solo artist, or at rare flamenco functions in town.
Though flamenco is primarily Andalusian in origin, its roots are traced to a traveling, possibly Jewish, Iranian named Isaac Ziryab. Arasteh went to Spain in 2005 to study the art form, and began to wonder if part of the appeal for him was the familiar Persian rhythms and song structures.
There are obvious mathematical relationships between notes, and rhythms and frequencies in all music, but explaining a composition arithmetically will "never touch anyone's heart," says Arasteh. "And, if you put any stock in the science of the brain, I do math from the left side and music from the right, so I am just fortunate to be able to employ both." Fortunate for both his listeners and students, too.
Speaking of compositions, he says all flamenco players will eventually write some of their own, and he is ready to unveil his first tango in the near future.
Azaima Anderson was raised in Chicago. She recalls her first of many guitar lessons was given by a Guatemalan. The song, as it was pronounced by the instructor, was "Skeep Tu Ma Loo." She has since advanced to lyric-driven, emotion-powered folk, pop, jazz and rock. This singer-songwriter works hard to craft her wares to cause tears or laughter, wherever inspiration leads. Look for her at local live venues, pick up albums on Amazon or iTunes or download music at reverbnation.com/azaimaanderson.
With a stop in Maine, and a few jaunts around the world looking for the perfect place to live, Azaima has found her tribe. She says the "beauty, climate and community" assure her she has found her place in the southwest sun.
Azaima Anderson, singer-songwriter
refugee from the East Coast.
Martyn Pearson, vocalist and drummer for the band The Roadrunners, says their music is collectively blues based. A native of Norwich, England, he recalls powerful and joyful music at home during childhood. Having fun with music from birth is a natural springboard for continuing to enjoy producing it life long. His father, Chris Pearson, was the drummer for a band that opened for the Beatles. Martyn Pearson, who came to the US on a golf scholarship, is a bicycle mechanic and writer.
Much of the The Roadrunners music is original, written by vocalist and guitarist Rodney Henderson. "Rodney taught woodworking at Silver High School, so everywhere we play, people know him," says Pearson. Henderson also hand makes the artful cajons, or drum boxes, that The Roadrunners use for percussion in smaller venues.
The third member, Roger Metcalfe, is another transplant from the UK. His roadhouse approach to bass and vocals helps create the raucous style of the band. Their music is great for dancing, and the band hopes the audience has as much fun listening as they do cranking out tunes.
In larger venues, for bigger sound and broader talent, Jeff LeBlanc brings his guitar to the mix. Pearson says of both Henderson and LeBlanc, "They could make it anywhere in the music world, but they don't have to. They are happy to have made it here, and have chosen to play for the pure love of music and stay here for the love of this special place. It is an honor to play with people with their vast experience and skill."
Look for The Roadrunners at local small venues and larger dances.
Hi Lo Silvers, from left: Bill Baldwin (bass viol), Virginia Robertson (accompanist), Melia Moore, Ellie Burns, Mary Cowan, Karen B. Fisher, Suzanne Thompson, Ann Winston, Judith Delgado, Caroline Baldwin, director Valdeen Wooton, Anne Lohkamp, Lindsey Johnson, Marsha Christensen, Linda Richter, Paula Cunningham, Lani Dombrowski, Janet Hess, Dona Topmiller, Cheryl Ward, Bonnie Kelly, Barbara Nelson. Not pictured: Nada Dates.
(Photo by Mary Alice Murphy)
Valdeen Cornish was born in the tiny Canadian community of Macklin, halfway between the Montana border and the Northwest Territories. Trading that isolation for Kansas City at age 10, she went on to develop skills as a portrait artist, motorcyclist, equestrian and pilot, to marry Don Wooton, have two sons, earn a Bachelor of Music Education degree from Pittsburg State University in Kansas, study voice with Jeanne Tomelleri at the Kansas City Conservatory of Music, and become a participant, organizer and officer of the board of the Women's Air Race Classic.
As a New Mexico transplant, in 2001 she started the Hi Lo Silvers, a female singing group that focuses on spirituals, standards, film and Broadway songs. Virginia (Ginny) Robertson and Patricia LaMarche have been the piano accompanists for years. Bill Baldwin is often asked to accompany on string bass. There are currently 23 members, with one opening, and interested singers may hope to join after a placement interview with the director.
As with other performers mentioned here, look for their concert dates on community calendars and press releases. You can read more about the group in the May 2011 Desert Exposure ("Sentimental Journey").
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