By Lindsay Keefer
Del Monte, who hails from Spain but currently resides in Los Angeles, was in the area for Western Oregon University’s (WOU) Smith Fine Arts Series. When one of the concerts canceled, contacts at the school provided the opportunity for WACA to host him.
Dr. Hilda Rosselli, dean of the college of education at WOU, said she knows budgets are tight in school districts so when opportunities like this come up, she helps out where she can.
“Our goal is to expand beyond the performances that we can bring to the Western community to be able to support schools in exposing kids to world renowned performers,” she said. “Some schools don’t even have music classes. It’s a wonderful experience and we’re grateful that we have artists like Adam … because he inspires kids.”
WACA students said they were definitely inspired.
“When he plays, you get lost in his music,” said sophomore Ricardo Hernandez. “You can daydream about whatever you want.”
Hernandez is a member of WACA’s mariachi band, which got a special session with Del Monte after the initial concert on Jan. 18.
“I learned a lot from him, explaining everything about all the different styles,” Hernandez said.
“I learned the different techniques he uses, counting when he’s strumming,” added senior Feliz Bautista, who is also in the band. “His scale, what he uses, is E scale, which is all natural, no sharps or flats.”
Bautista, who is hoping to start his own mariachi band, said he even became a kind of teacher for Del Monte for a little bit.
“I taught him the different strumming we have compared to his music,” he said.
“Flamenco and mariachi are different concepts of strumming. I taught him the wapango, which is somewhat flamenco-type strumming but a little bit more mariachi to it, and then I taught him a fast strumming.”
Del Monte said he was impressed with WACA students.
“They’re very sharp,” he said.
“They had great questions, an amazing quality of attention, dead silence. I threw out some pretty serious information at them and I can usually feel if I’m losing an audience or not and I felt that their attention and their level of understanding, they were pretty much there all the way. I could tell that by the nature of the questions.”
Del Monte, who brought along percussionist Gerardo Morales, divided his performance between speaking to the audience and playing.
“The audience expects interaction with the artist and, at the same time, because musical education on a subtle level is eroding but the curiosity is not eroding, the interaction between audience and performer is evermore important and prevalent,” Del Monte said.
“So when that happens, then the awareness of art and subtleties grows larger. On one hand it breaks the mystique but, on the other hand, it educates people and makes the palate more sophisticated.
“You may sometimes forget the role the audience plays in the development of an artist.”
Del Monte said American audiences are more open to hearing new things than European audiences, which are more critical. This was proven by his performance at WACA, he said.
“Every single experience is unique and inspiring, I’ve never had a bad one,” he said.
“The attention and curiosity never cease to amaze me. … So even though people may not have all the educational badges and so on, they do have a very strong sense of openness and appreciation for something they don’t know.”
Del Monte said he was glad to perform for a young audience.
“I’m a big believer in doing that because it’s reinvesting in our future, it’s the right thing to do,” he said.
“A musician today has to be on a mission to preserve the music. It’s not just playing in illustrious halls — that’s of course fun and an ego trip and all that good stuff — but, unfortunately, 80 percent of the quality public that is discerning and knowledgeable is not going to be around for very long. It’s the best public, the public with the most experience and reference and criteria, but 20 years from now, who are we going to play for?
“So this is not only a noble thing, but it makes sense because the exposure to good music is just getting more and more difficult.”