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Make Music Champions: Salvo’s music is a wonderful fusion of diverse genres from the Spanish-speaking world

Salvo is a Spanish guitarist and songwriter from Brooklyn, New York. He plays a fusion of Flamenco, Latin, Classical, and World Fusion. Currently, he is working on creating more original music, and his goal is to connect with wider audiences and inspire people.

How did you start making music?

My dad played the guitar and he taught me a little bit of it when I was a teenager. When I was in high school, I got into a guitar program in which I learned about playing classical and Spanish guitar, and I also got into the guitar ensemble. Then, I mainly taught myself as I was really interested in it. I moved out to Los Angeles and started taking private lessons and basically just kept playing the guitar every day ever since.

What genres do you do?

I specialized in Spanish guitar and I’ve played some classics like flamenco, and even a little bit of Argentinian music too. My music is kind of a fusion of music from the Spanish-speaking world.

Do you only play guitar? Or do you play any other instruments?

I play a lot of different instruments. I play some piano, bass, drums, congas and hand percussion, ukulele, etc. I’m a full-time music teacher in New York and I like studying everything.

Is music your full-time occupation?

Yeah! I work as a teacher but also do a lot of performances in the evenings and on weekends.

Do you mainly focus on covers? Or do you also work on songwriting?

I have two albums out. The first one, which I actually created with another artist called Hugo, is half covers, half originals. The second one is called ‘Solo’ and it’s all original songs created by me. It’s got some instrumental, rumba, flamenco, and also some singer-songwriter stuff too.

How did you find out about Make Music Day? And how has your experience been?

I think some of my friends told me about it. I knew about Make Music Day for a long time before I participated in it, and when I finally got the chance to participate, I had a wonderful experience. I liked that it was outdoors and that people were singing along, dancing, and clapping in the traffic. I love the experience of not knowing who is going to walk past you. This year is probably my seventh year participating in Make Music Day!

How would you describe what music means to you?

Music is a means of expression, and it’s a means for me to share my human experience with others on a very deep level. It’s really about connecting with the audience and sharing an experience of what it is to be human with them.

Finally, what would you say your goal in music is?

I want to keep playing and growing as a musician, developing my technique, creating more music, singing and performing more, engaging with larger audiences, and connecting with people who hopefully I’ll inspire in some way. My goal is really to connect and help people with my music.

Make Music in 100+ U.S. Communities

After a cold and dark winter, a record 100+ communities across the US are gearing up for a summer celebration of music on June 21!

New Make Music Day chapters have launched this year in Alabama, California, Georgia, Missouri, North Dakota, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin, with large-scale celebrations now planned in every part of the country, joining over 1,000 international Make Music cities.

Find a celebration near you!

Young Composers Contest with The Swingles

The Make Music Alliance is thrilled to announce the third annual Young Composers Contest, in partnership with world-renowned vocal group The Swingles.

Composers aged 13 to 21 are invited to set the text of the poem “A Jelly-Fish” by Marianne Moore to music for The Swingles. A panel of distinguished judges will select a winning composition, which will be recorded by The Swingles and released on June 21 for Make Music Day.

The submission deadline is May 22ndfull details are available on our website. Please spread the word among students and young friends!

Make Music Partner of the Week: Rhythm Band Instruments

Rhythm Band Instruments, makers of the pitched hollow plastic tubes called Boomwhackers®, have supported Make Music Day every year since 2016, including a donation of over 300 instruments for Make Music Winter this past December 21 (pictured above).

On June 21 they will be back at it, sending over 1,000 recorders, Boomwhackers, and assorted percussion instruments around the country for participatory Make Music Day events.

Thank you RBI!

Make Music Champions: Dani Usero has a great passion for versioning songs melodically on the ukulele

Dani is a multi-instrumentalist from Barcelona, Spain. He started playing drums and guitar at a very young age and picked up the ukulele at around 21. He has dedicated most of his life to studying music. His greatest passion in life nowadays is versioning songs on the ukulele in melodic out-of-this-world ways.

How did you get started in music?

As a child, I generally showed signs of musicality. I remember I had a unique sense of rhythm, which I think is where my interest in music began. At the age of 14, I started playing the drums, which was my first instrument. I spent three years taking drum lessons, where I learned all the fundamentals of the instrument. Also, around the age of 15, I got my first guitar. Around 18, the guitar was taking a little bit more prominence in my life over the drums, to which I had dedicated several years of hard study. Eventually, the guitar became my main instrument and I began to spend more time learning all the fundamentals of it. At the age of 20, having learned all the basics of music, I decided to pursue the next level. I dedicated months to studying very hard and finally got into the Conservatorio Municipal de Música de Barcelona, where I’d been studying until two years ago. During the years I was in the conservatory, the guitar remained the main focus of my study and professional career. Also, at the age of 21, I discovered the ukulele, for which I’ve developed a great passion.

What would you say is your favorite instrument to play nowadays?

I have kept the guitar as an important pillar in my studies and my professional career. However, the ukulele is undoubtedly the instrument I enjoy the most. Drums and guitar have their unique enjoyment. I love to play the drums when I want to blow off steam or let loose, while I pick up the guitar mostly to play rock classics and solos that I love. On the other hand, playing the ukulele has a whole different meaning to me. When I discovered the instrument, I focused on cover versioning, making the songs purely melodic. Each song was a new challenge, and that excitement created in me a great passion that persists to this day. Because of that, the ukulele is definitely my favorite one!

What genres do you do?

That’s a rather complicated question since I don’t have a pre-established style. My natural inclination would be rock, which is the one that I enjoy the most. However, jazz is also quite relevant in my life because of everything amazing I’ve learned about it while studying. I’d say I have a great affinity with both rock and jazz.

I know you love to cover, do you also compose?

I compose but to a much lesser extent. I have a lot of unfinished songs in the works. What happens is that I usually have very good ideas for songs, but I find it very difficult to finish developing them. Other than that, I think producing my versions of songs is where my music belongs. I’d rather rack my brains taking something that’s already been done and recycling it into a completely different version of my own, rather than making complete songs from scratch. 

In the ukulele world, is there any ukulele player that inspires you? And have you seen any new talents that catch your attention?

The first time I recognize the potential of the ukulele was with Jake Shimabukuro, the classic great ukulele player. I really enjoyed his Ted Talk presentation, in which he played Bohemian Rhapsody on the uke in the most amazing way possible. It was something out of this world! Another ukulele player I admire and find incredibly talented is Taimane, whom I got to meet a couple of years ago. Through the years, I have been discovering many ukulele players that inspire me for different reasons, such as technique, the enjoyment they transmit, skills, etc. Some people inspire me in a thousand ways, not just highly knowledgeable or very famous people. 

How would you describe what music means to you?

Music is a form of expression capable of channeling emotion. It is a two-way street, with music coming in and stirring the emotional part of you while making a big impact, and conversely, through singing or instruments music is a way to bring out that emotion and expression that you have. It serves both to channel and to receive nourishment for your own emotions, as well as to express feelings and reach other people. 

What is your goal in music?

Music has always been in my life and I can’t conceive myself without it. After finishing my studies, I don’t have specific life goals or know exactly where I’m headed musically. With the ukulele, for example, I plan to continue enjoying it and achieving new challenges. I also want to keep my focus on traveling and being able to perform live in different cities and countries. Years ago, I had very demanding goals in the field of studies and the ukulele, so the day-to-day was quite laborious and tiring. Now, I live more relaxed and in a more leisurely way, so my goal is to continue doing what I do now because I am truly happy. I think the best thing is to enjoy the road, without thinking about the end of it.

Finally, how did you find out about Make Music Day?

I think it was at the 2020 NAMM event in New Castle. Organizers of Make Music Day invited me to play at a well-known music store in the area. I participated and had a very pleasant experience. So, I participated that time in person and then virtually in 2021.

Make Music Champions: Courtney Preis loves writing songs about her own stories and connecting with people through them

Courtney is a singer-songwriter from San Diego. She started writing songs at a very young age which were all about her own stories as a rebellious teenager. Nowadays, she works with a co-writing team to produce music completely inspired by their own stories and emotions. She recently released a new album called Cabin in the Woods.

How did you start making music?

Music kind of runs in my family, we’re all singers and a lot of us are singer-songwriters. Growing up, music was what we did as a family. By the time I was around 13, I got drawn into the art of songwriting. At that age, I was rebellious and got in trouble a lot with the law, my parents, and that sort of stuff. I started to turn my stories into songs, which was really therapeutic for me, so I continued to do it as I became an adult. I went into college and continued composing getting inspiration from relationships, friendships, and any stressful times I had. I continued turning emotions into songs, and it just felt right. It was really fun and easy for me, and it felt true to myself, so I kept doing it. The rest is kind of history! 

Could you tell me a bit more about your songwriting journey?

When I moved to LA a little over a year ago, I got to explore a lot of different paths of my musicianship and songwriting. I initially moved there because I had a publishing deal with my team, which was like a writing camp 101, every single day. I’d show up in the studio and we’d be writing for artists and commercials pushing the product which was the song. Instead of turning my own experiences into music, I was turning whatever I could into music. I did that for the whole year, then I found my co-writing team which is my current team. We work on the brand of Courtney Preis and it’s all about my life stories and their life stories because we all create our music together. We travel across the USA creating experiences and composing, and that’s how my newest record came about, Cabin in the woods.

Y0u’re a songwriter, do you also do covers?

Before I moved to LA, I was doing music full-time as a gig artist. I’ve always been a very spiritual person, and I remember telling the universe “I want to pay the bills making music”. I was kind of doing it, but it was still not quite where I wanted to be because I was playing other people’s music, and I was playing at places where I felt like my music was just background music as no one was paying me attention. That’s probably not the worst thing for someone that just wants to play or perform, but that was not my case. So, I did that for two years. It was very lucrative while being also very soul-sucking. I did covers for a very long time, but I think that chapter is closed to me now.

What genres do you do?

What I write is generally pop music, like love songs and that kind of stuff, but I do put a lot of stories into it as well. I want the soul to come through with the music and I want people to see themselves in it too. That being said, I’m a pop singer-songwriter, greatly influenced by R&B and classic writing.

How did you find out about Make Music Day?

Last year, I was living with a friend in Topanga, and one of her friends told me that there was going to be a Make Music Day event where I should definitely perform. Because of the pandemic, I had stopped performing and was just working on composing at my studio. And, as Topanga is very community-based, I knew Make Music Day was going to be a great show for everyone across the city, so I decided to participate. I had a wonderful time!

How was your experience at Make Music Day?

It was so great! Not only did I get to perform, but I also stayed for a lot of performances throughout the whole evening. It was just really lovely. As I already said, Topanga is very community-based itself, so everyone at the event was really receptive to the music and had a lot of fun.

How would you describe what music means to you?

Music means a lot as it’s the career path that I’ve chosen, and there is a lot of excitement, pressure, and trying not to think so much about the future that comes with it. I think music, in general, is like the rock of life. The world cannot move on without music, and we are all musical! We all have vocal cords and hands to create and experiment with music. 

What would you say your goal in music is?

To keep being as authentic as I can with my message and my music, and simultaneously touching as many people as I can with exactly what I want to say through my songs.

Make Music Champions: Ian Matthew, helping people through music

Ian Matthew is a singer-songwriter and performer from Connecticut. He has been immersed in music from a young age. He built his music career going from playing in rock bands in high school to composing his own music. Currently, he is mainly working on composing more original songs. He recently released a new country song, called Directions.

How did you start making music?

My father was a musician, he used to buy us skateboards and stuff that we wanted as far as toys but he wouldn’t allow us to play with them until we played the G chord, the C chord, the D chord, and the F chord. He told us he always wanted to give us the foundation to run with it in case we ever wanted to pursue music. I started playing in pop-rock bands when I was 11 years old and I did it for around four years until my friends started to get a real-life, and I had no band left. So, I started making music on my own, using the wonders of the internet to start networking and finding producers. I’d go and tell them “Hey man, I did this over your sound, do you think it’s cool? Can I release it?” The majority of the time I’d get the OK from them. I also started experimenting with different sounds because I grew up with so many different genres of music that it was hard for me to stay in one spot. I always thought that if something felt good, I should be able to do it, so I started experimenting with whatever felt good and was honest to myself. 

What genres are you currently doing?

We’re doing some kind of pop-punk production. Honestly, I don’t even know and can’t even say for sure the genre of my music. Even in live shows, some days it can sound like pop-punk but other days it sounds like country. I would say I do mostly pop punk, but country is a part of me since growing up my grandparents were in a western country band, and they taught me a lot about the genre. I’ve written a couple of country songs that I’ve released just to put something new that I liked out there and I got a good response from my audience. Maybe I’ll do it again in the future if it feels organic.

You’re a songwriter, do you also like making covers?

Yea, for sure! I have a blast making covers. I think it’s a great way to pay homage to the bands that you grew up listening to or just songs that moved you. Good covers that do the original songs justice sometimes can do just as well as an original single would do.   

How did you find out about Make Music Day?

I was invited to an event at Make Music Day. The girl that was hosting the event explained what Make Music Day is to me, and I thought it was genius. Everybody was so hyped for the event and I loved the big and diverse music community I saw there. 

How would you describe what music means to you?

I would say from the listener’s perspective it’s what music has done for me. I remember being insecure in middle school and having one song that got me pumped up before going to school would give me the power to fake it. To me, that connection is just everything. Also, during the years of my life in which I didn’t know who I was, music was the one constant in my life that I could count on. On the creating side, as I said I was insecure as a kid and music gave me an identity. Trying to figure out who you are and what you want to be and finally finding this one thing that people recognize you for gives you a feeling of identity and purpose. It is just amazing when people start to listen to your music and they tell you that your music helped them get through a tough time. Music represents a wonderful and magical opportunity to meet people, express yourself, and for other people to express themselves through you. 

Finally, what would you say your goal in music is?

Financial stability for sure. I want to be full-time with it and take my music as far as I can take it. I want to reach as many people as I can. My music is meant to help, whether it’s a fun song that makes you want to go enjoy your Friday night, or it’s a sad song that helps you through a breakup. I want to be able to use my art to help somebody in any type of way.

Make Music Champions: Lyrics or music? For Emily, lyrics come first

Emily McNally is a singer-songwriter and performer from Brooklyn. She has loved playing guitar and piano since she was a kid. She has been making music for about 15 years. She is currently a full-time musician and freelances on Fiverr.

How did you start making music?

I started playing piano when I was 6, and I did that all through high school. I started taking voice lessons when I was 10. As I was always listening to music, I think it was like a form of escapism for me, so I naturally gravitated into writing it when I was a kid. I wrote songs like a kid writes songs about silly things, and definitely about serious heartbreaking middle school. But, I never really shared it with anybody until I was a senior in high school when I performed my first original song at a talent show, and I got nice feedback about it. So, when I came to New York for college I decided to pursue music more seriously. I started writing more and sharing more, and slowly building a fanbase over time.

How would you describe your music?

I like to describe my music as genre-fluid, so I like to focus on the story I’m trying to tell. After having the lyrics, I think about what genre could suit the new piece I have. But for the most part, it tends to fall into folk-pop and soft-pop vibes. I’m really flexible and I take a lot of inspiration from different genres in my writing.

You’re a songwriter, do you do covers?

I did covers all through college for a long time until I built up a good-size YouTube fanbase in college, and nowadays I don’t post them as much anymore on my social media. I usually do include a couple of covers on my shows, but I mostly focus on my original stuff these days.

And, do you compose for other artists?

Over the pandemic, I’ve got to collaborate with a lot of producers who would send me sort of pop-dance style records. I would write lyrics and record vocals for them and send them over, and they would mix them. I love collaborations and the possibilities of getting to write with other people. For a long time, I was just doing it by myself, from when I was very little up through college. It was just a few years ago that I started writing with other people, and I love it.

Are you a full-time musician?

Very recently, as of last month, I started freelancing full-time doing music. It’s pretty new and I’m nervous, but I’m also so excited to finally get to be a full-time musician! Most of my work comes through Fiverr, where I mostly write custom songs for people to give as gifts to their loved ones.

What instruments do you play?

I started as a music education major in college before switching to performance. As part of that, I had to learn the very basics of a bunch of different instruments such as violin, cello, clarinet, and flute. But, my main instruments are piano and guitar.

How did you find out about Make Music Day?

I don’t remember exactly how I stumbled across it. I think I had been following the page for a while and discovered there was an event during winter, the Make Music Winter 2019, but I wasn’t able to participate in it. So, when the summer came along, I decided to apply for the events and performed in three different boroughs. It was cool, and I loved the experience so much.  I kept doing it every single year because I love it so much. It was so delightful; it feels very human to connect with people that way.

How would you describe what music means to you?

What a wonderful question! I think that for me music has always been about emotional connection and catharsis. I’ve spent so much of my teenage years and younger years listening to people sing about what they were going through and feeling less alone in my tumultuous adolescence, and all I’ve ever wanted to do since then is to give that back in a way and pass it forward.

What would you say is your goal in music?

I’d say the baseline bare minimum goal is to make a living entirely out of doing art and doing music. Above that, I’d love to keep growing my fanbase to a point where I can go on tour and play shows across the country or even across the world. I want to keep connecting with people and releasing music that reaches a wider audience, while still being able to have a private life, I don’t have any big fame inspiration.

Make Music Champions: Carmela is rocking Twitch’s music world!

Carmela is a singer-songwriter and performer from Los Angeles.  She has loved playing guitar and composing since she was a kid, and has been making music for about 15 years. She currently streams live on Twitch three times a week and is working on a new album.

How did you start making music?

When I was young, I loved musical theater, so I started doing that. There was a local theater where you could just really go and partake in the musicals, so I did that. I grew up on super songwritery artists like John Denver, so I picked up the guitar and I just fell in love with it. My dreams of being on Broadway quickly shadowed and I wanted to start writing my original songs and playing the guitar. So, I taught myself and kind of just started from there. I’ve been a musician since I was 11 I think, and now I’m doing it as my career, which is super cool. It has always been the thing that I knew I would do, and nothing else really made sense to me as something to pursue. For me, it has always really been music.

What genres do you do?

I love blues music, so a lot of my music kind of stems from the blues, but I love rock, funk, folk, indie. So, I try to throw all of those genres into my music too.

You’re a songwriter, do you also make covers?

I definitely do covers. On twitch, for example, I stream three times a week and I do five-hour sets, so obviously I can’t cover all that time with originals, I definitely include some covers there. What I like to do is try to make the covers my own and put my original spin on them. 

What is your occupation? Are you a full-time musician?

Yea, I’m a full-time musician. Now I’m also a streamer on Twitch, which I discovered due to the pandemic, and now is my full-time job. I also do some studio work at a local studio, but my main job is Twitch.

How has your experience been on Twitch?

For years I had a couple of friends say to me “You should try live streaming on Twitch, there is a big music community there that is growing, you should try it out!” and for years I’d say “No, I’m too busy for that kind of stuff”. But, when the pandemic hit and I had plenty of time, I decided to just check it out, so I logged on to Twitch, clicked on the music category, and browsed, and there was some amazing stuff going on. It was a whole new crazy experience, and I decided that I wanted to try it out. I started doing live streams on Twitch, and I’d tell my friends on Instagram and Facebook about it, and it all kind of built up from there. I had like five viewers on my first stream, and now I get over a hundred.

Do you also write for other artists, or just for yourself?

I’ve done a few writing sessions for other artists and I love it, and I honestly want to do more of that as time goes on. Also, I love collaborating in songwriting, it makes it so much better!

How did you find out about Make Music Day?

I used to go to an open mic night called the Night Owl, and someone there said Make Music Day was happening. They gave me an application form and I just filled that out, then they gave me like three different venues to play at, which seemed really cool!

How would you describe what music means to you?

Music is therapy, it’s a friend that is always there for me and that can get me through anything whether it’s positive or negative. Music is that one constant that has always been in my life through everything. It’s therapy for yourself. And for people that don’t make music, they can relate to your music, which I think is magical.

What would you say your goal in music is?

All in all, I just want to make people happy and give people a break from their days. Not just happy, but validated. If I write a sad song, I want someone to hear it and feel understood and seen. 

Make Music Champions: Gwendolyn Fitz dreams of taking the ukulele to Broadway

Gwendolyn Fitz is a singer-songwriter living in Brooklyn, New York. Not only does she love writing song lyrics, but she also has a strong passion for ukulele playing. Currently, she’s working on her new project Ease of a Murder, a musical about murder with ukuleles. 

How did you start making music?

I started at the age of 11. When switching to middle school from elementary school, we had to choose between band, choir, or some other type of art. I couldn’t sing at the time, and I’m terrible at anything to do with making physical art, so I went with band and started playing the flute. I pursued a degree in flute and voice in college, and when I got out I didn’t want to do classical music, it just wasn’t my thing. I’ve always wanted to write songs. I had a ukulele, so I started playing it and then I started composing music. And that’s how my journey started.

What genres do you like playing?

My love is in jazz music. But, as a teacher, I end up learning all types of genres. When I’m performing, it’s usually jazz-based. 

Could you tell me more about Ease of a Murder?

I wrote it back in 2021, during quarantine. I was sitting on my bed writing some lyrics and all of a sudden, I got this melody in my head It’s so easy to be a murderer, which surprised me. I looked at everything else I had written and thought “This could be a show”. The next day I finished writing the script. The play is about a hitman, who ends up falling in love with his victim’s daughter, and when he finds out she’s not who she seems to be. That’s the plot, very mysterious! So far, we’ve had one long run this past March 26th.

You’re a songwriter, do you also like making covers?

I like doing covers. It’s hard to keep up with everything because as an artist you’re expected to write your own music but also to make covers. Truth is, I focus mainly on songwriting which is what I enjoy the most, but covers are part of the job too.

What is your occupation?

I only do music. Besides songwriting, I’m also a freelance ukulele teacher. I teach mostly in person, but also online.

How did you find out about Make Music Day?

I first heard about Make Music Day when I was in San Antonio, Texas. I applied and had my first live performance. It was a lot of fun.

How would you describe your experience with Make Music Day?

It’s been great. I started at Make Music Day just performing on the stage, which I did for the first two or three years that I participated. I enjoyed it! Then, instead of performing, I wanted to have huge ukulele jams, which is fun as there is a huge ukulele community. This past June 21st it was our first time together since the pandemic and I had a blast, everyone was so happy, it was a wonderful time!

Finally, what would you say your goal in music is?

I think I’ve already reached my one goal, which was to do music full time and freelance. Honestly, now I just want to be the first ukulele musical on Broadway. It sounds a bit silly, but you know, dream big!