Two students from the Indiana University South Bend Ernestine Raclin School of the Arts are featured on a recording for an album that won three Grammy awards.
Juan-Carlos Alarcon, a senior majoring in music education Juan-Carlos Alarcon, a senior majoring in music education, and Salvador Perez Lopez, a 2018 graduate with a Bachelor of Music in Clarinet and current graduate student at IU Bloomington’s Jacob School of Music, contributed spoken word pieces and played instruments on the studio album American Dreamers: Voices of Hope Music of Freedom by John Daversa Big Band. It swept all three categories in which it was nominated: Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album category, as well as Best Improvised Jazz Solo and the Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella categories.
Salvador Perez Lopez, 2018 graduate with a Bachelor of Music in Clarinet The project was started as a way to raise awareness and offer support to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, also known as Dreamers, undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children. It features more than 50 DACA performers playing iconic American songs, such as Stars and Stripes Forever and America the Beautiful interspersed with spoken monologues where they tell their personal stories.
In addition to their monologues, Juan-Carlos, who was born in Mexico and grew up in Elkhart, played percussion, piano, and pipe organ on the album, and Salvador, who came from Mexico and grew up in Bremen, played clarinet and percussion.
Salvador was first contacted about participating in the project back in November of 2017 after producer Kabir Sehgal read Salvador’s article American Dreamers which was featured in The New York Times and watched some of his musical performances on YouTube. A few weeks later, Salvador was contacted by John Daversa himself, the music director and composer of the project and in March of 2018, Salvador flew to Miami to record. It was all surreal, says Salvador.
About two days into rehearsals, I overheard John and Kabir talk about how cool it would be if there was a DACA pipe organ player on this album and that’s how my fellow IUSB friend, Juan-Carlos, got involved. I told them about him being a pipe organ player and is also a dreamer kid. They flew him down to record ASAP.
Juan-Carlos recalls the day he was contacted about participating in this project. I was teaching piano and got an email from Salvador. It was such a good opportunity, and I got to talking with John and Kabir, and the rest is history.
At the recording sessions in Miami, many of the featured performers got to meet in person and interact. The recording itself was intense according to Juan-Carlos, and took place over approximately 12 hours. But their hard work certainly paid off, when the Grammy nominations were announced in December.
Everyone involved with this project received an e-mail from the producers letting us know the wonderful news, and some tears were shed with joy. I just am really grateful the word is getting out and people are hearing the different stories through this album. I am also grateful to the Recording Academy for nominating this album in three different categories, says Salvador. Honesty I am still shocked I am a part of a Grammy nominated album. I never would have thought I would be a part of something like this, I am so happy!
The deeper significance of the project makes it even more rewarding to have been nominated, according to Juan-Carlos. It’s a great thing being nominated for a Grammy but what really makes it a wonderful experience is the fact that I got to work with all these individuals and hear their stories. Coming out of the shadows and knowing there are other people like me. We all have different backgrounds, aspirations, lines of work. But we’re all here for one goal, for that American dream.
This experience of being part of a Grammy nominated album aligns with the career goals of Juan-Carlos and Salvador. Juan-Carlos wants to share his love of music as a music teacher. Teaching is my passion. I do other things here and there, but always come back to that teaching aspect. I want to inspire other people like my teachers have inspired me to do this.
Salvador, who is currently pursuing his Master of Music, is open to many options in the music field. Being involved in a jazz album really opened my eyes on the different jobs there are with music. From producing, to being a studio musician, I now feel like I would be happy with any career in music as long as I get to keep playing the clarinet for the rest of my life and sharing my passion to the world.
Most of all, Juan-Carlos and Salvador hope American Dreamers: Voices of Hope Music of Freedom leaves a lasting impact on people and their thoughts about immigration.
I think America is a mosaic, we all bring different perspectives, views. Difference is what makes America great, not the divisions, says Juan-Carlos. There’s still so much to do. For now, we need to keep fighting, keep dreaming, keep getting involved, and just become that one.
As for Salvador, he hopes this album encourages people to dive deeper and learn more about the Dreamers. I want people to listen to our stories. Not just on the album- but research and learn more about our situations. There are over 700,000 of us Dreamers. We are all Americans by heart, but unfortunately not on paper. The one thing we hope people get out of this album is we can all come together.