Victor Mendoza

"Mendoza makes Latin jazz sizzle! He's explosive and lyrical...his many moods make him a force to be reckoned with on today's music scene. Indeed, Mendoza is one of today's brightest composers."

Ron Della Chieza, WGBH-FM, Boston

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interviews

Victor Mendoza: "Music is a gift from God"

Interviews in Rocadigital.com date 2010-07-04, Argentina:

Roca. - Victor Mendoza already is a part of every edition of the Percussion Festival, and he feels comfortable in Roca. His passion for music, his beginnings, the possibility of joy on stage and be able to share it.

-What is your opinion of this Festival of Percussion that took place in General Roca?
-Victor Mendoza: It is always interesting. I loved the organization by Angel Frette and his assistants. The teaching level of the teachers is very high, as well as the enthusiasm of the students. There is always something to learn.

- You transmit a lot of knowledge.

- VM: It's just that being that I am a teacher sometimes I cannot "change the chip." On the other hand, I do stop teaching and just perform and enjoy.

- You "open up" the stage for everyone's enjoyment, and it seems to be for all the members of the group.

- VM: I have a better time sharing the stage. Music is no about "making oneself great," but for sharing it. I often see situations where one performer leads constantly, as in the case of a singer or instrumentalist. I understand it, but the truth is that when one has so much talent around, the situation becomes more enjoyable.

-It's more enriching.

- VM: It is a thing that I love doing here in Roca, because the musicians are willing to do it, they play very well and are willing to take chances.
Like that time when the audience saw a small child suddenly jump on stage-now they have gotten used to surprises!

- Or as in " Dulce de Pera (song entitled pear jam) "...
- VM: (He laughs). Yes, I composed it one morning on way to the theater. It is based on a pear jam which is made by this lady, Teresa. I did not write it for anyone per se, it is an imaginary situation. But the pear jam is not imaginary! (even more laughs!)

- How was it your beginning with music, the first time?

VM: The first time that music attracted me was when I was about eight years old. My father is a guitar player and he would leave the guitar lying around. Also, some cousins would play the guitar, and it was attracting me very much. So I started learning melodies by ear.

Then I started taking classes, and also played in the school band, it's like that in the United States. I was always going towards the percussion. From the beginning, I was playing maracas with my father, and this is the way it was for me. Teachers in my schools were also suggesting to me to study one thing, or another.

I grew up with all that. I grew up with the Argentine music as well. Initially, I believe that I listened to more chacarera and milonga than tango. Also, I heard Brazilian music. And it stuck. I had the great fortune of having had that, because bad music also sticks. Many people do not realize it, but this is why it is very important to have a teacher, a guide. I had the fortune of having my father, who has good taste in music and also my mother who was listening to people like Tito Puente and boleros. I grew up with it, and later when I was studying it, I was assimilating it more rapidly.

- What percentage of your life is music?

- VM: Almost all. It is the first thing that I do when I get up, and when I go to bed it's the same thing. It's that simple.

I have great pleasure with what is happening at the moment. I am satisfied and am enjoying it. To be able to make a living as a musician is very difficult. But if you are logical and you prepare, it is possible. It is necessary to be serious, there are many people who take it in vain, playing in an orchestra and treating that situation like it's going to work in a factory it's odd to me. So I remind them, "we are paid to play!"

For me it's like that, I do it for me. I go on a stage and my job is to make people happy through music. It's a gift from God, it cannot be taken in vain, and in addition I have a great time.

Victor summarizes the answers in one word.
- What does music mean for you?
- VM: Happiness

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"If I play a bolero and a gentleman reaches for his wife´s hand, I have done my job"

Interview by Inés Gallastegui, Ideal.es, Granada, Spain.

Based in Boston, Víctor Mendoza (born in Chihuahua, Mexico 1956) is one of the best known vibraphone performers and composers of Latin jazz. Besides, performng with his own group, he performs as guest invited with big bands, pop groups and symphonic orchestras from around the world. Tonight and tomorrow Mendoza will be a part of most of the repertoire offered by the Orquesta de la Ciudad de Granada as part of the season's inauguration of the season in the Plaza de las Pasiegas.

-The vibraphone is a little known instrument. How is its music?

It is an uncommon instrument, but it is becoming more popular. It was invented in 1926 as a combination between the marimba, of African and Central American roots, and the ballaphone. It is a percussion instrument, but it is also a melodic and harmonic instrument. It is necessary to think about it as a piano.

Initially it was played with two mallets and now it's played with four, so there is more harmony and it is more complete. For example, in "Alfonsina and the sea" we mix the vibraphone with the violin and the combination is beautiful.

- Is this your first visit to Granada?

- I came here when I was 12 years old and I always dreamed of returning, but it did not imagine that it was going to be as beautiful as it is now. My father was studying in the conservatoire in Madrid and I came with him. A family from Baza, near by, invited us to their home and my father, who is a guitarist, was very inspired by what we heard here.

- And you, does the city inspire you?

- Last night I was already imagining melodies, simply by the atmosphere and the people.
I love the accent of the locals, it has a rhythm and as a percussionist it grabs my attention.

-What is the difference between performing in a club with your group and performing with a great orchestra?

-I cannot be too adventurous, because the music is completely written-out for the orchestra, but within that I do improvise. What it requires is a flexible conductor as is Alejandro Posada. When we work like this, we breathe together and it comes as one.

-Tomorrow's concert is free and outdoors. What does this mean for you as a musician?

- I love it. The idea is not to impress, but to leave an impression and the audience enjoys it. There is repertoire that is very interesting, but leaves you cold.

When a person comes out of work, the least thing he wants is to think, he/shewants to hear something happy, which brings him memories... For me there is nothing nicer when I am playing a bolero and see a man or a woman reach for each other's hand, or that their feet start moving... Then I have achieved my goal.

- Latin people are an emergent power in The United States. Is the also the case in the area of culture and music?

- Totally. The sales of Latin music are impressive. When I came to Boston thirty years ago, in the music shop there was a tiny space of about a meter, for Latin music. Now there are complete sections: Spanish traditional music, classical music, flamenco, Latin-American, Latin jazz, folklore... it is world music.

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