The Artist Life, Part One
Dr. Raymond Torres-Santos: A Conversation with Palacio Magazine
Raymond Torres-Santos, Ph.D., a Professor of Composition and Theory at California State University, Long Beach was born in Río Piedras, Puerto Rico.
According to Wikipedia, Torres-Santos is a composer and conductor, and pianist, arranger, and producer of both classical and popular music. He’s also a Board of Directors Member, American Society of Music Arrangers and Composers (ASMAC)
Torres-Santos’s biography at CSULB lists a long string of credits including that he’s “…performed and/or commissioned by the American Composers Orchestra, National Chinese Orchestra, Warsaw Conservatory of Music Chorus and Orchestra, Pacific Symphony, Reading Orchestra, Queens Symphony, North Massachusetts Philharmonic, Soria Symphony (Spain), Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, Georgia Symphony Orchestra (Europe), the Canadian, Washington and Los Angeles Opera Orchestras; the (National) symphony orchestras of London, Vienna, Vancouver, Toronto, Shanghai, Taipei, Virginia, Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic; the Youth Symphony of the Americas, American Youth Symphony, Bronx Arts Ensemble, Continuum, New Jersey Chamber Music Society, West Point Woodwind Quintet, Newark Boys Choir, North Jersey Philharmonic Glee Club, North/South Consonance, Quintet of the Americas, Gabrieli Quintet and Voix-Touche; as well as many other independent groups in the USA, Spain, Italy, Germany, and Argentina. His music has been used for television and radio programs as well as choreographed by dance companies.”
Dr. Raymond Torres-Santos sat down for a conversation with PalacioMagazine.com about his career and his music. We began by asking him to recall when he first knew he wanted to pursue a career in music.
“I always knew that I wanted to be a musician. It was so evident to my parents when I started to imitate the music emerging from the TV.”
Torres-Santos remembers he always would want something he could use to play music to follow the rhythm and the beat around him. He would ask his grandmother to take him wherever he would hear sounds in the neighborhood.
His grandfathers played musical instruments. “One was a good player of the German Accordion. The other one, the violin. My father, as well, wanted to become a musician. Always being in love with music.”
His face lights up as he recounts those early days of music being all around him. “Soon I started to play the guitar, the bass, and the drum. Just to follow rock music.”
Then his formal education started when he began taking organ lessons and Theory. Torres-Santos then moved on to a high school where he expanded his music world to include the piano and began composing, arranging and conducting for his classmates.
“That was the ideal environment to be among other musicians who were wanting to be just like me and provided me the right environment to develop to who I am now.”
Professor Torres-Santos was described as the most versatile Puerto Rican composer active in the 21st century by Malena Kuss in her book, Music in Latin America and the Caribbean: an Encyclopedic History.
That versatility is deeply rooted in the musical history and culture of Latin America. Torres-Santos says that Latin American music has been exposed to many influences. “Native. European. Even Jewish and Middle Eastern through ancient Spain. And now the American influence.”
According to the Professor, film music has been a part of Latin America with examples like Mexico, Argentina and Brazil. “There’s an eighty-year tradition. Latin America has produced instrumentalists, composers, and arrangers.”
“And classical music has been a part of Latin America since the beginning of the European movement towards this region.”
Torres-Santos asks that we be aware of the diversity that forms the Latin American character. “Our persona has been shaped by all those influences.”
He adds, “But we need to realize that we, in essence Latinos, are the mixture of many influences and those influences are seen.”
For Torres-Santos, his only limitation has been no limitation. “There’s a broad world out there and that has really shaped me.”
Raised in Puerto Rico, a part of the United States, there was a demand for music. There were hotel shows, singers that needed musicians. Records, radio that needed jingles, music for film. They all allowed Dr. Torres-Santos an opportunity to grow and succeed in music.
“I was so fortunate that when I was 15, I was already doing that.”
The professor says he’s curious. He tries to be as broad as possible about his music. “I not only want to know what I see around me, which is immediate, but also what is remote, the better.”
PalacioMagazine.com wanted to know how all the big factors of education, dedication, and persistence, inspired an artist’s passion. Dr. Raymond Torres-Santos had an answer.
“I’ve heard that…success is five percent talent and ninety-five percent hard work. And I truly believe in that.”
Dr. Torres-Santos explains that audiences believe that actors and musicians think that someone is an overnight sensation. “Beyond what we see, there is hard work.”
“Persistence, consistency are very important ingredients to achieve your goals.”
Not surprisingly, Education is essential for the Professor of Composition and Theory. “We need to understand what we’ve done in the past in order to better understand where we are today and we could really make a contribution for the future.”
Torres-Santos reinforced the notion that Art is important. According to him, it’s everywhere you are and go. He lists some of those places. It’s music in your car or the films and TV that you see on your television and in theatres. There’s design all around you.
“Art is an essential element in our life. If you have that urge of being artistic, you pursue it.”
Professor Torres-Santos encourages those artists. “There are places for everyone…we have to complete the society where people express themselves.”
Great words of advice. If you have that call, you have that call, “But you need to have the passion and you need to work hard.”