On the Power of Music to Bring Light to a Soul, a City & the World: It’s Alfredo Caxaj, Artistic Director of Sunfest (No Schedule Man Podcast – Episode 8)
In this most recent episode of the No Schedule Man Podcast, Kevin talks with Alfredo Caxaj, the Executive and Artistic Director of Sunfest, a name that belongs both to one of the premier outdoor festivals in Canada (which takes place in London, ON every July), and a year-round world music concert series and non-profit community arts organization.
In this conversation, Alfredo reflects on how he and his family found themselves uprooted from Guatemala in the 1980’s, what challenges they faced as they tried to adapt, and how he managed to follow his passion for music into what has become one of the premier world music festivals anywhere on the globe.
Alfredo’s story is honest, touching and inspiring. The results of his efforts (and those around him, as part of the Sunfest group) have touched and empowered countless lives in Canada and around the world. Visiting with him was an absolute joy and I couldn’t be more grateful to share even a little bit of this wonderful man with you. Enjoy.
Special thanks to Allstage for their support of the No Schedule Man podcast!
The analogies are endless, like driving through the darkness: with your headlights on, you can only see the next little bit in front of you, but that’s enough to allow you to keep moving forward.
Wherever even the smallest of shadows are cast, there must be light somewhere. If you can see it, it can see you.
Keep going. The waves will calm eventually.
I never expected to end up working at race track, let alone manage one.
I just wanted to be a radio announcer. And I was. Early in my radio career, I somehow got involved in hosting a radio show about auto racing. Next thing I knew, I had been hired as an announcer at one of the tracks we covered on that show, a place called Delaware Speedway. And only a few short years after that, I found myself leaving my chosen profession and role as morning show radio host at CHOK Radio in Sarnia to become the Sales & Marketing Director at the race track.
Just over three years after that, I was General Manager of the place. It was a role I never aspired to and still have mixed feelings about. But I can tell you this: our team worked our asses off during that time and did the absolute best we could. We won some, lost some and learned and experienced more within a couple years than I think I could have in a decade at any school.
Jay Doerr was just starting out his Delaware Speedway racing career right around the time I began as an announcer. As the years went on, my career progressed and so did Jay’s racing efforts. We gradually got to know each other, just as I also became more familiar with dozens and dozens of other drivers and teams. So when I got put into the General Manager’s role, I suppose I had already formed some strong friendships with many of the race crews, and I felt a tremendous responsibility in not wanting to let them down.
I have deliberately not thought or talked much about Delaware Speedway over the last many years. But that’s starting to change, and having the chance to enjoy this discussion with Jay, a 3-time series champion and long-time top Ontario competitor, was a real treat for me. I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but I think it would be safe to say that Jay and I always have had mutual respect for each other and I think that comes across in our conversation.
I hope some of the many people I got to know in that time enjoy hearing some of these stories. I’ve no doubt there are many, many more to come.
In this episode, I catch up with Rose Cora Perry, who took part in my “Celebrating Hope” concert in November of 2010. Through the conversation, Rose discusses the origins, highs and lows of her first two bands (Her and Anti-Hero), the disappointment that followed their conclusions and the personal development that followed. Rose also talks about how her solo acoustic CD, “Off of the Pages” came to be and the personal and professional processes that have led her to where she is now, having put together a new band and nearing release of her latest project, “Onto the Floor.”
So many of us spend so much of our lives trying to be everything except for who we really are. It’s a well-worn path, following other people who don’t really know where they’re going and listening to people who have little of value to say.
Listen to your heart. You know what to do. You are unique and so will be the path you walk.
This is the sixth in a series of articles. Previous entries can been accessed quickly with these links:
Part 6: Challenges and Potential Solutions
For the purpose of a quick review, here are just some of the challenges I see between me and the completion of this project:
– I don’t have the money
– I don’t have the time
– I don’t have the talent as a guitarist
– I don’t have the ability as a singer
– I don’t have the right gear, or know anything about what the right gear even is
– I have an electric guitar I bought for $150 at pawn shop
– I don’t have a band
– I don’t have anywhere for a band to rehearse
– I’m not in good enough shape, physically, to perform the way I want for a couple of hours
– I’m not in good enough shape, vocally, to record or perform the way I want for a couple of hours
– I don’t know how to properly record rock music, or where to do it
– I’m a single dad with a busy career whose top priority is his kids. My time with them is off-limits to much else. What sense does it make to take this on?
Just how in the world am I supposed to overcome these challenges?
I’ve been thinking about that.
I’ve already begun to play my guitars more and more. And I’ve committed myself to creating a “Song Blog” on my KevinBulmer.com page to force myself to play and sing on a somewhat regular basis. It’s likely that some (most) of those Song Blogs, at some point in 2016, will be demos of Mutineer tracks. That process alone should start to build some singing and playing chops back up, along with nurturing and feeding a consistent rhythm of creativity.
I figure I can always take some guitar and/or vocal lessons this year to sharpen up. Plus, I work in sales & marketing during the day. I’m on the road a lot. Nothing’s stopping me from singing along with the songs in the car or doing vocal drills to build up endurance and skill while I’m in between appointments.
You don’t find the time – you make the time.
As for my level of guitar or vocal proficiency (or lack thereof), I’m finally at peace with the idea of sounding like … well … me. After all, I’m the only “me” there is. I want to be the best representation of myself that I can, but I’m simply not going to have the level of skill that someone who does it for a living will have. I earn my living in other ways. I have two great kids who are my top priority. I am only willing devote so much time to becoming better at playing guitar or singing. But I’ll do my best and that’ll be that. For areas where I really need people with a high level of skill, I’ll find help. My ace in the hole is that there are lots of people who sing and play, but I’m the only one who has my songs. And I’ll go to bat with them any day.
I’ve begun to change my gym routine to include more cardio and a lot more stretching. I’ve also begun to learn some beginning yoga poses and intend to take some classes through 2016 to gain more endurance, core and leg strength and flexibility. And if you don’t think I’ll need it, you have no idea what I’m intending to do. I don’t plan on just standing there. You’ll see.
Money, I can make. I could start a Mutineer online store and sell merchandise. Perhaps I’ll start a Pledge Music campaign once I get closer to it. Maybe I can secure some sponsorship. Perhaps there are grants available in Canada for this kind of thing. But the money is the part I’m actually concerned about the least. That part will figure itself out.
As for gear, recording and rehearsal space, I don’t have to know about all that. I just need to find people I can trust that do have that knowledge. I know what I do have: the songs. I can learn from others about everything else.
But what about the other players? Well, I already have a certain guitarist in mind, and have been thinking of trying to work with him for many years. In all of my visions of this project, he is the guy who is the other anchor of it all. He doesn’t know this, and would have absolutely no idea I’ve been thinking of him at all. And after I reach out to him, it may end up that he either isn’t interested or isn’t the right fit. But I want that to be part of this process of discovery. Ever since I first saw this guy play and met him 8 or 9 years ago, I figured we’d someday work on something together. When I see the moving picture in my mind of this band on stage, he’s the guitar player, the anchor, the cleanup hitter. We’ll find out if I’m right or not. I have not reached out to him yet, but will do that soon.
Why be so picky? Well, I need, or at least I think I need, somebody with a certain set of skills that likes a lot of the same music that I do that can pull off the level of playing that I’m envisioning. I want to play guitar on some of the songs, but not all of them. I even have a few specific songs in mind that I know I want to include in the concert, and I know he could not only handle them, but would likely enjoy playing them, because I know he loves a certain band as much as I do.
I have no vision yet of who plays bass or drums, although I do envision some guest vocalists to appear on certain songs and in the concert. I figure that if I can somehow convince the guitar player I’ve mentioned to jump on board with me, the rest will sort itself out. And if it’s not him, someone else will find their way to me somehow. Navigating through that will all be part of the process.
Having said all of this, what could possibly be in it for you to take any time and trouble to follow along? I’ve thought about that, too, and will share those feelings in the final entry of this series in Part 7, tomorrow.
Thanks for reading!
This lyric is from a song I wrote over a decade ago, originally titled “Brave New Hope.” This particular line is in the song’s bridge, and it speaks with a perspective that I must have had in my consciousness in order to write it down all those years ago, but it was not until very recently that I truly began to embrace its essence in my every day life. Attitude and outlook are, it seems, things that are within our control.
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