MM: What instruments do you play, how did you get started with each one, and how long have you been playing them?
ER: I play piano and sing. I began playing piano at age 8. I started learning songs by ear at home, and my parents noticed I had a knack for it so they found me a private piano teacher. I kept taking lessons for 8 years. I’ve been singing since I was a toddler because mom always sang to me when I was young. My first original composition was “the mommy song” wherein I sang “mommy” over and over and over.
MM: Who has inspired you musically?
ER: Both of my parents have been a huge musical inspiration because they’ve always found such joy in sharing music with each other and others. My musical role models consist of older jazzers such as Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Chris Connor, Nat King Cole, Chet Baker, Elis Regina, and Louis Armstrong; more contemporary jazzers such as Esperanza Spalding, Gretchen Parlato, Nancy King, Pat Metheny, Kurt Elling, Bobby McFerrin, and Jo Lawry; and various pop, R&B, and folk artists such as Regina Spektor, The Civil Wars, Emily King, Ben Howard, Gregory Alan Isakov, Sylvan Esso, and Zero 7.
MM: What are some of your favorite instruments, and why?
ER: I’ve always believed I was either a bass player or percussionist in my past life. I’m always listening to and infatuated with the role those instruments play in a group, and believe they are the center of the groove. Many of my favorite percussion instruments are Brazilian-based, such as pandeiro and cuica. I also love to play cajon and djembe.
MM: What are your current musical projects?
ER: I’m currently learning and transcribing traditional samba and choro music, and learning Portugese for a trip I’m planning to Brazil in 2018. I’m also working on writing originals and arranging covers of various genres with a friend who plays guitar and sings (I will be playing percussion and singing). Our duo is called Em & Em (for Emma and Emilio).
MM: How do you practice, and how do you balance music with some of your other life goals? How do you help your students practice?
ER: I practice by vocalizing every day, learning new tunes, transcribing, listening, and going to live shows. Music can be incorporated in many of my life goals such as travel, cooking, and strengthening relationships. I’ve found it the most challenging to pursue music performance and be family oriented at the same time. I obviously don’t have a family yet, but I know performers are constantly working, and often have gigs at any hour, day or night. Honestly, teaching is a great avenue because you have more steady hours and a generally steady paycheck.
I encourage my students to practice at least 10 minutes a day so they retain and improve upon everything we learn. It is difficult to sit down and practice for the younger ages, so I just want to make sure my students have fun and stay inspired.
MM: What are your top music goals?
ER: My long term musical goal is to have my own traditional samba group and perform throughout the LA and Orange County area. My TOP musical goal is to stay inspired, and spread inspiration and joy to others. As my mentor Christine Guter says, “the whole point of sharing your music is to uplift the human experience.”
MM: You’re just about finished (or finished?) doing a music program? Tell me about that. How was the experience?
ER: Yes, I just graduated from CSULB with a BA in music performance! The program was rigorous and performance/ensemble focused, and I learned A LOT about professionalism in the music business from the students and staff there. All of the students at the Bob Cole Conservatory have such a high level of musicality in their playing that it really challenged me to always be my best, and always be connected to my music and my audience
MM: If you were stranded on an island and could only have one album with you, which one would it be?
ER: What a hard question! I’d have to say it’s a tie between the 1997 album “The Best of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong,” and the 1977 album “Quatro Grandes do Samba” by Candeia, Cavaquinho, Madeiros, and Brito.
MM: Anything else you want to add?
ER: Nope, I think we covered it all! Keep making music, everyone!