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Stage & Studio: A Memory of Gerardo Calderon

The vibrant musician, born in Mexico and bringing its sounds and traditions to the Northwest, has died. Dmae Lo Roberts brings back this podcast conversation with him.

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Gerardo Calderon amid his instrument collection. Photo via gcgartsproduction.com

It’s becoming a frequent and unfortunate recurrence to learn of someone’s passing on social media. On January 22, friends and family of Gerardo Calderon were posting condolences and memories his death. The messages on his Facebook page are filled with these posts in both Spanish and English. What’s clear is he’s already missed.

During the pandemic Gerardo Calderon created nearly daily videos, sharing performances of his music at a time when live performance stopped. Dmae Lo Roberts first met Calderon when he was working with performer Nelda Reyes when they were touring their educational show of pre-Columbian tales and music. For years Calderon also was a musician in residence at the Portland International Airport. It was a welcome respite for travel-weary passersby to hear his beautiful guitar compositions. Roberts asked Calderon to create music for two short films she produced at MediaRites during the pandemic.

In 2020, Roberts talked to Calderon via Zoom about his work and love for sharing original and traditional music. He played a couple of his compositions live during the interview. In this short episode you can hear him speak of his love of the ancient music of Mexico and other parts of Latin America. What remained clear was how much sharing his music was a lifelong passion. Roberts added more music in this shortened podcast interview and included his rendition of “La Llorona” (The Weeping Woman), a much-loved Mexican folksong.

More about Gerardo Calderon:

Composer, teaching artist, producer and multi-instrumentalist Gerardo Calderon was born in Mexico City. He grew up surrounded by music, dance and culture. Gerardo was the musical director of Grupo Condor and Nuestro Canto, and pursued his interest in learning about traditional Mexican music, Latin American folk music and Pre-Colombian music. He performed with folk music ensembles in Mexico, Canada, New England, and the Pacific Northwest, and also toured with choir and world music ensembles through out the USA. Gerardo composed music and designed sound for contemporary ballet companies, documentaries, short films, commercials, theater companies, and cultural organizations. Gerardo was sharing his talent as a teaching artist for over 25 years and has continuously served the Northwest community. More at: https://gcgartsproduction.com/

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Photo Joe Cantrell

Dmae Roberts is a two-time Peabody winning radio producer, writer and theatre artist. Her work is often autobiographical and cross-cultural and informed by her biracial identity. Her Peabody award-winning documentary Mei Mei, a Daughter’s Song is a harrowing account of her mother’s childhood in Taiwan during WWII. She adapted this radio documentary into a film. She won a second Peabody-award for her eight-hour Crossing East documentary, the first Asian American history series on public radio. She received the Dr. Suzanne Ahn Civil Rights and Social Justice award from the Asian American Journalists Association and was selected as a United States Artists (USA) Fellow. Her stage plays and essays have been published in numerous publications. She published her memoir The Letting Go Trilogies: Stories of a Mixed-Race Family in 2016. As a theatre artist, she has won two Drammys, one for her acting and one for her play Picasso In The Back Seat which also won the Oregon Book Award. Her plays have been produced in Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, NYC and Florida. Roberts is the executive producer of MediaRites, a nonprofit multicultural production organization and co-founder of Theatre Diaspora, an Asian American/Pacific Islander non-profit theatre that started as a project of MediaRites. She created the Crossing East Archive of more than 200 hours of broadcast-quality, pan-AAPI interviews and oral histories. For 23 years, Roberts volunteered to host and produce Stage & Studio live on KBOO radio. In 2009, she started the podcast on StagenStudio.com, which continues at ArtsWatch.

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