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INTERVIEW: STEFAN VALE Guitar Virtuoso AA you hear terms like virtuoso, maestro or diva 4 being used to describe an up-and-coming recording PES Monee nee Mean erec ne cule anc yaar et indeed, but guitarist extraordinaire Stefan Vale does not disappoint and well deserves this coveted description. Pare Minom cea MT ens ot ia CT Cosenilea eases eR une vale aCes Prone metarater CRM elmse seen Maruret i romantic arpeggios over sensually sweet melodies, Vale is a self-professed connoisseur of the arts, Tamil ocala Le RR RDC how his personal journey to become a musician heme esi el aan Rehm Nae ae) PNn eM AOE] -3 eR une cuod eer Stefan, let's begin with where are you originally from? Iwas born and raised in Washington DC and | grew up in New York City. | say “grew up" because that's exactly what | had to do when I was a teenager, my parents got divorced and I began living in two cities. Then after high school | moved to New York City permanently to pursue a music career. When did you begin playing the guitar and what (if any) formal training did you have? Well, my first musical instrument was the drums, in fact. | took drum lessons at a local music school, began playing in my junior high school band and then eventually acquired a jacked-up drum set, which | played in the basement of my father’s house. 'm sure it was really loud down there. Did the noise ever bother your family? Yeah, it did. I'd bang on those drums pretty loudly. {Laughing} Italso worried my parents that | played the drums, because they were afraid that I'd go completely deaf. | was born deaf in my right ear, so they were concerned for my good ear. | never let the disability slow me down though That's amazing. What type of music did you listen to back then? Mostly 80's Pop, R&B and Rock music including Led Zeppelin, Kiss, Rush and stuff like that. | then formed my first rock band, with me on drums, a bass player and an electric guitarist But | really didn't like being at the back of the band. | wanted to be in front where I'd get all the attention and the girls, so | learned how to sing and play the guitar, too. also wrote lyrics to the band's songs as we prepared for our first gig. remember that I had a big fight with the bass player and quit the band right before our first gig Then my ex-girlfriend quickly joined the band and took over my spot, singing the very song that | had written the lyrics to. So | then started a new band and eventually formed a song-writing duo with a friend of mine. Then | moved back to New York City to go to Arts College and pursue my dreams of being a solo recording artist. ‘So you moved back to NYC to pursue your dreams and how did that work out for you? Not well. | worked two jobs, joined a few lame bands that went nowhere, bought a ton of recording ‘equipment and began studying music in Greenwitch Village. I'd record late at night in my tiny apartment in Manhattan and after several years of unsuccessfully peddling demo (cassette) tapes to A&R representatives at record companies (before the days of music CD's), | grew disillusioned with my prospects of success. I then took a course in Music Business to learn more about the industry, which opened my eyes to just how improbable my dreams of ever coming true were in the ultra-competitive world of music. I then sold off all of my recording equipment and moved to Miami to pursue the quiet life, abandoning my dreams of ever becoming a recording artist to instead focus my creative energies ‘on becoming a professional Salsa dancer. From musician to Salsa dancer, that’s an interesting transition. ‘So what made you want to pick up the guitar again and reignite a music career? Well, when I moved to Miami I didn’t even own any musical instruments. | became an accomplished Salsa dance instructor, performer and editor-in-chief of an online Salsa magazine. also went back to school, got a degree and advanced certifications in Project Management. | also got married, had two kids and then a few years later | went through a bitter divorce myself. Suddenly | had some pretty profound life experiences. | believe that to be an artist you need three things: material, talent and motivation. Adversity can be a great motivator, if you can channel its energy. | now had all three elements of this recipe, as well as lots of time on my hands, so | authored and self-published three books, two original movie screenplays and recorded three music albums. Wow, very prolific! So how did you make the transformation from Rock gui 21 | Music | September 2014 Well, | had traveled to Spain several years earlier and had fallen in love with the Spanish Flamenco guitar. learned how to play the Flamenco style mostly from video lessons and music books. | already knew how to play the guitar and was very comfortable playing with my fingers (without a pick). | just had to get used to nylon stings, but | had lots of time to practice and develop my own distinctive playing style Your signature music style certainly has trappings of Flamenco, but it's different. Wouldn't you say? Yes, although | do play traditional and Rumba Flamenco pieces, my signature style is much more than your typical Flamenco guitarist. I've always been interested in composing ambient New Age music, the kind of music that you'd hear at the Cirque du Soleil It's really music that evokes the imagination and makes your spirit fly. I'm proficient at playing four instruments (guitar, bass, Percussions and vocals), so in the recording studio I'm able to wear a lot of hats in addition to being a music producer. That's an interesting way to describe your musical style. I've noticed how you often fuse together different music genres. Flamenco, Salsa, Reggae, Jazz... Yes, | love all different types of music. Music is a universal language and this diversity of music appeals to my own multi-racial ethnic background and also my love of abstract art “People come to these events to browse the beautiful artwork, socialize with one another, drink some wine and listen to me play live music... as they take in the ambient orgy of the senses’. Visual art seems to be a big part of your brand, as most of your live gigs are in Arts related venues (such as Art exhibitions and galleries). Yes, that's true. | got my start playing live at Humberto Benitez's art gallery in Coral Gables, Florida. Humberto then introduced me to the director of the Red Dot Fair where | began playing annually in front of thousands of spectators during Art Basel Miami week. That also led to me being asked to perform live at the Art Fusion gallery several times as well as other Arts related venues. | love performing at these types of events, because | can be a part of the tapestry of art, without being the center of attention. So you don't like to be the center of attention anymore? No, I don't really need it anymore. I've grown to be more humble and am perfectly happy just being a part of the tapestry. People come to these events to browse the beautiful artwork, socialize with one another, drink some wine and listen to me play live music... as they take in the ambient orgy of the senses. {Laughs} Your latest CD album release (Serenaded) has really found an audience in the Arts community and elsewhere on Public radio, especially the songs Serenity and Rumba Nation. Yes, I'm so honored that people find enjoyment in listening to my music. My song Rumba Nation, which | recorded with Tunisian Rumba Flamenco guitarist Mounir Ben Gaied, was featured on Miamis Serious Jazz, Latin and World music public radio station WDNA 88.9FM I've gotten airplay there and also on several other public radio stations nationwide and my latest music video to the song Serenity has also done quite well on YouTube. This particular song holds a special place in your heart, doesn’t it? Explain why. Yes, | composed and recorded this song earlier in the year, but it took on a special meaning for me in the spring. My mother had always been so supportive of my music and was looking forward to receiving my new CD album (Serenaded) in the mail. Unfortunately, she slipped into a coma the day before the CD arrived. | had been scheduled to perform live at the Art Fusion gallery in Miami for my official album release party, but flew to Washington DC to be by her side. | was with her in the hospital the day that she died and played the song (Serenity) in her ear before she passed away. A few weeks later, | composed a new song in her honor entitled Remembering You. 23 I Music | September 2014 “Pm going to keep producing music as long as I’ve got the desire. Creative people have an insatiable desire to create, and if they can find an audience...and fame and fortune, too, well even better”. I'm so sorry to hear about your loss = and am sure that she would have Discography been very proud of you. So what's next for you? ‘What do you have coming up? Well, | am scheduled to perform live and totally acoustic on the NPR affiliate public radio station WLRN 91.3FM in November and then perform live at the 2014 Art Basel Miami event at the Red Dot Fair in December. This will be the forth year in a row that I've been asked to perform here and I’m really looking forward to it. | also am pretty active on social media, too, where | post news of all of my upcoming performances, new music videos, etc. I'm going to keep producing music as long as I’ve got the desire. Creative people have an insatiable desire to create, and if they can find an audience... and fame and fortune, too, well even better. Through great adversity and personal tragedy Stefan Vale appears to have triumphed to realize his life-long dream of becoming an independent recording artist (on his own terms) and though the road has been challenging each step of the way, . he has somehow found a way to i , ‘ harness the energy to produce truly Ca di remarkable music. Now that's what rs aT \ call inspirational. Guitars and Amplification Stefan Vale exclusively uses Cordoba guitars for all of his For more information on Stefan Vale studio recordings and live performances, favoring the visit his official website at Cordoba GK Pro and GK Studio models with a Fishman \ and you can find PreFix ProBlend pickup system, with Savarez normal his music at online music stores tension guitar strings. For amplification he uses a Bose everywhere and videos on YouTube. PA system along with Roland acoustic amps for monitoring, Original artwork courtesy of Humberto Benitez 24 1 Music I September 2014