On today's show, we're going to meet two very talented women and learn what it takes to be a professional musician.
Please stay with us.
Inspire is sponsored by Kansas Furniture Mart using furniture to inspire conversation.
And by the Blanche Bryden Foundation.
The friends of KTWU honored to support programs and services that enrich the lives of our viewers.
And the Raymond C. and Marguerit Gibson Foundation.
Hi, and welcome to Inspire.
I am pleased to be here with my co-host2, Danielle Norwood and Betty Lou Pardue.
And today we are going to meet a couple of local women who make beautiful music.
We're all familiar with women, musicians and performers.
Pop stars like Beyonce and Taylor Swift.
Country stars like Carrie Underwood and Martina McBride.
But there are thousands of women in this country.
Most of whom you've never heard of, who call themselves professional musicians.
And speaking of professional, we're so pleased to welcome a well known musician who performs with her band, Maria the Mexican.
Maria Cuevas were so happy to have you here on Inspire.
We are fans.
We are fans.
But, you know, and many people watching, were fans of your family.
Will you please tell us a little bit about them?
And did that help with your pathway to where you are now?
And really, my story begins with my grandmother, Teresa Cuevas.
So she was actually born and raised right here in Topeka.
She started one of the first all female mariachi bands in the country, and her band kind of began to flourish in the late seventies.
They performed at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, very close by.
But unfortunately, they are also known for being involved in the Hyatt Skywalk collapse.
Luckily, my grandmother survived and when she recovered, she really made it her passion to teach the younger generation mariachi music.
So my sister, who is also in the band and I always joke, you know, we didn't really choose to be musicians.
We were just sort of told that we would play.
So, you know, looking back, I'm very grateful for that, of course.
But I started performing when I was 11 years old.
Same with my sister.
So, you know, our our age range in the band was quite diverse because, you know, my grandmother at this time was in her seventies.
So I performed in the Mariachi Estrella.
I played the Vihuela and sang for about ten years.
And I then kind of went to college.
And of course, my grandmother, she got a little bit older and finally had to sort of retire, although she really played the violin right up until kind of her last year of life.
So kind of fast forward, went to college, started to explore other genres of music that I liked.
And I met Garret Nordstrom, who kind of came up with the idea, Hey, let's take this mariachi music, but kind of put a rock and roll flair to it.
Let's make a mess of music or a mix that's really kind of a reflection of me as a Mexican-American woman.
So that's how the birth of Maria, the Mexican, began.
So how would you describe the mix to people who haven't heard it?
Because I'm a fan girl, so I already know what you're talking about.
I love that.
You know, that took us quite a while to be able to choose just a couple words to describe the music.
And we kind of like we we kind of came up with, in the end, roots rock.
However, I like to say Americana blues, Mexican soul, because, you know, there's there's rock and roll, there's mariachi, there's a little bit of soul sometimes and a little bit of funk.
And so it encompasses the sounds I think, of of many genres, not just one, which, again, you know, kind of thinking about myself, I came from a mexican family, right, where that culture was really dominant.
But my mother is Irish and German and, you know, so I'm kind of a mutt, right?
Just like so many of us, you know, we're so many things, not just one.
And when you see us live, you'll hear a traditional mariachi song.
But then we might cover a Beatle song.
So the range is quite broad and diverse.
So you are a working professional musician.
Okay, so tell us what that is like.
I mean, most of us will think about that.
You know, you you you're on the road, you're touring.
You go to hotel rooms, you trash it.
You know, it's that type of but I suspect it's not what we think it is.
What is it?
I wish it was exotic.
So to me, a professional musician is one who gets paid to perform, oftentimes has a contract.
And we you know, COVID was it was very tough on musicians.
And so I would really consider pretty much all of 20, 22 as kind of a rebuilding year.
We were slowly, slowly getting back, still dealing with cancelations towards the beginning of the year, just due to just due to the pandemic, really.
So now what that looks like for me is a full schedule.
You know, a couple of gigs most months, if not more.
Prior to COVID, we did travel to Austin.
Right after COVID, we traveled to Chicago.
That's probably about the farthest that we went and then pretty much stayed within the local area, you know, certainly going a little bit beyond Kansas City in every direction or so.
So continue to perform to get paid for the music.
And then there is a lot of back end work as well.
I mean, I always feel like I could be doing more with my music promotion, promotional items, recording, which is another big part.
So we have been working on our third album.
We I've made the joke.
I'm going to call it space season yours because it's taken us six years.
But, you know, good things take time, we say.
So hoping to release the third album later this year as.
Well, that's going to be wonderful.
Is it more difficult, do you think, I mean, as a woman to be taken seriously as a professional musician?
In my opinion, yes.
I think women continue to be the minority in the music industry.
I think I'm a bit more aware of that because of my grandmother.
You know, the mariachi genre was a very male dominant.
And so for her to come out with an all female mariachi was a pretty big deal.
You know, she wasn't the first, but she was certainly one of the first in the country.
So I think it was always a bit more aware of that, you know, how how women are represented in music.
And as I've gone along, I've definitely, you know, dealt with inappropriate comments and, you know, maybe a comment that, oh, I thought you were just going to be a pretty face.
So I think that that is still present.
However, I think it's improving and I think there is more awareness around women in music and that gap is is closing.
And I hope I hope that that's happening as well.
Do you think that streaming platforms and things like Apple Music, those kind of things can help you get a broader base so you can be more recognized on the charts, like you don't need a big record company to have those kind of things?
Absolutely, I do.
I think that there are quite a few benefits of what the Internet has done to music.
However, on the flipside, it has made it harder to get paid in some ways.
Because your music people expect it to be streamed for free.
And so, you know, when you think about album sales and what, you know, what vinyl used to be and what CDs used to be, that's almost completely gone.
Vinyl is, of course, coming back and we'll see what the future brings.
But, you know, you used to buy you think about it, used to buy everyone's CD and you don't do that anymore.
And in a Spotify pays you gosh .00.
Oh, my goodness.
About ten zeros in a one per stream.
And so while you can reach a broader audience.
Absolutely, that's a huge benefit.
At the same time, there are consequence as to what the Internet has done to music.
And I think that goes beyond music as well.
Well, I could ask you a million questions, but so thank you very resolutely here.
But we are going to have to take a short break.
We will be back with more women in music.
We're back to learn more about women in music.
Joining us now is Erinn Renyer, a professional cellist and a lecturer in Applied Cello at Washburn University.
Erinn, welcome to Inspire.
Well, thank you for having me.
I'm so interested in chatting with you.
Just the chat that we've had before we got on camera and the passion that you have for the cello, which is something that I took and both fourth and fifth grade.
How did you decide to go into the cello?
What made you draw to that particular instrument?
Well, there's a really silly story.
So, you know, when teachers are going around to the different schools to show the instruments, to showcase them off.
I was sitting there in fourth grade and I'm like, oh, that's really cool.
You get to sit to play the cello.
You don't have to stand.
That's the instrument for me.
And that's what I picked.
Yes, very awkwardly.
Yes, for sure.
But that's how I fell into it.
And then it just kind of bloomed from there.
You know, I grew up in Rapid City, South Dakota, and it was a very remote place, beautiful place.
And I because it was I was a self-starter.
There was no private teacher there.
I had a very supportive orchestra teacher.
And but he played saxophone and started to kind of play cello the same time.
I started playing cello, but we had a symphony very similar to the Topeka Symphony.
It's called the Black Hills Symphony.
And I was principal cellist from 16 on.
And so I got to play with grown ups and perform.
I got to play with Henry Mancini.
I got to play, Yes, Oh my goodness.
We had a lot of professional composers, musicians come in.
Pinchas Zukerman And at the age of 16 get to see these, you know, Gary Carr Some great, great musicians.
And I thought that's how life was.
I get to hang out with all these amazing composers and musicians and and that's how I kind of fell into it.
And then upon a high school graduation, I was like, Well, I don't even know where I want to go to school, but I do want to do cello in some way.
And I graduated in 1988.
And we all know at the University of Kansas what happened in 1988.
Down around April, I went down to visit my brother, who went to school there, and the Final Four, they won.
So I got to go on to the KU campus the night that they won and I'm like, I want to go to school here.
So and I lucked out because I met a great professor, Ed Laut, who is my co publishing partner in our publishing company, E & E Cello Music.
And he's a fantastic cellst, was a wonderful teacher, had a great relationship and still have a great relationship with him years later.
So that's that's how it all came about.
So this is I mean, when you hear about professional musicians, I mean automatically think of rock stars and, you know, Celine Dion and people on Carnegie Hall or on TV.
And that's not necessarily true.
I mean, you know what other nontraditional paths are there for professional musicians?
You're a professional musician and you're an instructor.
I'm an instructor, but I have many hats.
And that's one thing that especially in today's world, because there's only so many symphony halls.
Back in the ages of Moza and and and Beethoven, there were a lot of musicians.
So there was a lot of there was only certain forms of entertainment.
You had opera.
You had you know, you had chamber music and so forth and so on.
So classical music existed back there.
It was like being a dentist almost, you know, it's a regular occupation.
But now we have so many other not I wouldn't say competing forms of media, but we have other ways for people to be entertained.
We have sports, we have theater, we have all those other things which are all wonderful.
But that kind of narrows the opportunities for musicians.
So I one of the things I think is really important as a musician is to diversify.
As a classical musician, I play in symphonies.
I play gigs, I play, but I have also done alternative styles.
And now my new thing is, you know, electric cello with looping and learning how to play that.
You'll see a lot of that.
Now, if you if you've ever heard of like the piano guys or, you know, some of those fun, trendy, classical musicians that have kind of broken the barrier of the norm, which I think is wonderful.
It's important to know how to diversify and and move with the times.
And and you think of you know, great bands out there have string players playing in them.
And that's a it's a good thing.
But, but like, for instance, what I do, I teach at Washburn, but I have a private studio of about 40 students.
I'm a director of a student ensemble called the Topeka Cello Collective, which is about 40 students two different ensembles, and they do performances around.
I also have a publishing company of cello music that's international, you know, so a lots of different things.
And that's what's important is to to diversify.
So that way you can make a go of it.
But still love what you do.
How important is it to get young people interested in music?
Oh, right now, imperative.
The arts are imperative to the to the well-being of our young individuals.
I children are in such a volatile time, emotionally, psychologically, with all the challenges of the Internet, social media, we're seeing kids having a really tough go of it, of being able to be grounded as individuals and being able to work through things that are tough, that are difficult.
You know, I teach a 16th century instrument and I'm dealing with 21st century kids.
And there's no app for for what I do.
And so trying to bridge that temporal gap is is is a challenge.
It really is.
And so what I try to do is I try to reinvent different things like, okay, they like rock music.
Okay, let me let me do the the most recent meme.
Let me let me come up with something really creative for them to try to play and and just mix it up and do different things to keep them interested.
But I think it's vital that they struggle.
Struggle is a very important part of growth.
And sometimes if we take too many concessions, then we're just limiting their their potential, their possibility.
So that's one of the things that I think is important, is as a music teacher, but also being an advocate for them as individuals, as they grow through the most awkward times of their life, you know, between the ages of fourth grade to 12th grade, my goodness, what they go through and being there just even as a listener and getting them distracted when they're having a rough day, let's let's do some music therapy right now.
That's all really, really important.
And oftentimes that's the only way they feel they can fit in.
Yes, that is true.
That, you know, music attracts a unique type of individual, sensitive kids that maybe don't know how to verbalize what they're say..., what they feel, what what they're going through.
And music is a way they can communicate that and engage.
And if a child is feeling like they don't belong to anything, they could belong through playing an instrument without having to talk, and that they can express and feel like they're part of a team, in essence.
And that's that's really important to the mental health of of of our our youth.
And it gets them away from like I said...phones.
There's so much here.
Thank you so much for being with us today.
We are so thrilled to have you here.
and thank you for watching.
We'll be right back with more Women in Music.
Hi, Im Dr. Silas Huff and Im the Director of Orchestras at Washburn University.
I Heart Cello Day is a day developed by Professor Erinn Renyer that celebrates the cello and cello pedagogy and cello music.
Yes, I am the creator crazy person behind this event day..
Started way back in 2015.
I really felt it was important to do something with the community.
Cellists are by nature very personable and love to socialize and be with each other and play music.
And I do a lot of arranging of music.
And so I thought, you know, February is a good time because it's kind of at the end of the winter and people are wanting to do something, do it, and want to be able to have time together.
So I thought, okay, I'll create an event day.
That's an opportunity for cellists of every age from as young as fifth and sixth graders all the way to adult professionals to get together.
They talk about the cello.
They play music together, and then they have the culminating event is a big concert, which in which they all play together.
So today, for example, nearly 150 cellists played in a concert together.
the first event we had \it was more of kids that were just local in Topeka.
A lot of them were cello students of mine.
Then it grew to kids from Lawrence.
And then now it's kids from Kansas City, Salina, Emporia, Manhattan, and, you know, all over northeast Kansas come in for the event.
And we have a lot of professionals that actually come in as well.
I think that the children get to see adults playing their instrument.
And it's just I'm hoping that it's an inspiration to them.
They get to see people doing what they do, but very, very well.
And I think for the adults, it's really nice to see a new generation of cellists coming up.
At first it is intimidating, but they're really supportive.
They like if you make a mistake, they.
Won't just call you out.
They try and actually help you.
I just get to meet a lot of new people while doing something we all love to do and it's really awesome.
To see when we.
Come together to play and we're all on the stage together.
It's a gigantic group, but the music is beautiful and so I really like playing with everyone.
I think with what the goal is in my life is to be to teach the love of music.
But also I would rather help a child become a better human being than a better instrumentalist.
I don't think that the goal should be to always make them the best that they can be at the sacrifice, and the cost of who they are as a as individuals.
Even just the title of this fest it's called I Heart Cello Day.
What that means is I love being a cello player, but that doesn't mean I have to be the best.
And that hopefully resonated with these kids.
And it's it's all about fellowship.
It's all about that beauty.
And then that takes some of the pressure of perfectionism, off of them.
Ladies Danielle and Betty Lou, we had such an incredible conversation with wonderful women at two talented, highly talented women musicians.
And I'm also a musician, and I can kind of relate or understand a lot what they discussed.
And it reminds me is that being a musician or being a performing artist of any kind runs the gamut.
I mean, you don't have to do it one certain way.
It can be lots of different ways.
It can be just a local coffee shop.
You're happily doing it.
You can be on a worldwide tour.
You could just be a recording artist at home.
It doesn't matter.
But it's all working musicians and it's giving music and it's just, Oh, it's, it's a it's exciting.
And it's the love of it.
With both of them, you could tell they have an honest love for what they do wihat their intention is that's when they're most alive, be it in a studio or in front of a live audience.
Or and we all have a passion for it.
And I like the working definition.
Anybody who gets paid to perform music is a professional musician, and we have that in common.
And it doesn't matter if it's a small crowd or if it's thousands, and I've done it in front of thousands as well as small crowds.
And I think the gift of music is the best gift that you could ever get.
And you could ever give to somebody, which is why I love Erinn talking about the way that she's teaching and giving that to young people thats so beautiful.
And the whole family thing with Maria.
And how important that was.
You know, each of them started at a very young age, as did you guys.
And keeping it in the schools.
It makes me so sad to think that that's like one of the first things that schools are cutting is music in schools, because there's so many reasons that kids need that.
I mean, so many professions that are so key to having music, you know, math.
You need to know how to count.
You need to know how to do all of these things in order to be a proper musician.
So please, please, I beg of you, keep the music in the schools Well, think about it.
We just went through two plus years of COVID.
Everybody was holed up.
And what did they do?
They started going, getting concerts online and picking up the ukulele and, you know, finding ways to entertain themselves through the arts and express himself to the arts.
And that's how we survived a very dark time for us.
And now to say, oh, we got to cut music.
What did he just turn to?
What did we just do?
And it helps in so many areas of our lives, you know, calming us down, getting us revved up, you know, bringing back memories, so many things and socialization.
Because you really can't be mad at somebody and play in a band with them, you know what I'm saying?
I mean, it connects people from all different backgrounds.
I mean, it and theater.
To me, right.
And sports are the things that bring us all together because you can't be mad at somebody and be sitting there playing notes together, just saying.
Oh, think about how long.
I mean, think about your own when you music histories, when you, you know, in school and all that.
And I still keep up with my music teachers.
They are still parts of my life.
I mean, it is a life long relationship.
Mr. McMillan and Dr. Anschutz shout out to you.
I love you.
I love you, both of you.
band teacher and forever.
And it's so weird because again, I'm grown.
Obviously they're grown and I could call them by their first names.
I never will.
I have that respect for them that I'm like a little kid, that they're such integral parts of my life that I will always be grateful for what they did for me.
Well, that's all the time that we have for today.
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Do this at our website www.ktwu.org \inspire Inspiring women Inspiring passion for music inspiring you on KTWU.
Thank you for watching.
Inspire is sponsored by Kansas Furniture Mart using furniture to inspire conversation and by the Blanche Bryden Foundation.
The Friends of KTWU honored to support programs and services that enrich the lives of our viewers.
And the Raymond C. and Marguerite Gibson Foundation.