We had the good fortune of connecting with Juan Calderon Cabal and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Juan, what habits do you feel helped you succeed?
Perseverance and sticking to a routine. At the moment I set apart two to four hours of the day to composing and playing guitar and I spend an hour on each aspect of a particular project such as sketching ideas, notating music and transferring from notebooks to a publishing software. I try to balance having creative time and time to work on the technical aspects of putting together a piece of music. I find it more natural to write on paper and then to transfer the music to a music notation software in order to clean it up and make it readable. I set two hours to practice guitar and about 20 minutes to improvise, then I set an hour to either study to musical scores, research new opportunities for performances or to read. Everything is done with a stopwatch so that I can organize my time efficiently. I have been working since about 2014 on an absurdist opera project called “The Apthorps,” which is meant to capture an atmosphere of rarified upper class New York life from the point of view of an outsider. It is composed of collected sources such as newspaper quotes, birdwatcher’s poetry, excerpts from Russian novels found on the street (The Badgers by Leonid Leonov), and the Memoirs of the Duke of Saint-Simon.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am originally from Colombia and I have been a resident of New York City since 2008. I moved in to the US in 2001 to escape the violent political climate of my homeland at the time. It was quite difficult but I persevered and always had the eye on my ultimate goal of developing my voice as a composer. It doesn’t mean that I have ‘made it’ in the traditional sense, but I am able to sustain myself through music and to dedicate enough time to writing and completing projects that are important for me. My music blends classical, modern, and avant-garde elements. I draw from my experience as a recording and touring rock guitarist in Colombia and Miami, my studies of East Asian music, inspired by interaction with musicians and artists in China, Japan, and Indonesia, and my teaching practice. I recently released the album “Preludes and Etudes for the Guitar.” My composition “Reino Incierto” has been performed at Carnegie Hall and the Sounds of the City Concert Series in New York. My Three Movements for Guitar Quartet is included on an album of prominent Colombian composers titled “Entre la huella y el grito.” My guitar sonata Schwarzfahren is being published by Cristiano Porqueddu for Edizioni Curci. I earned a master’s degree in Composition from the Manhattan School of Music. I have recently studied classical guitar with Mark Delpriora. My mentors include composers Susan Botti, Reiko Fueting, and electronic music pioneer Joel Chadabe. I earned a Bachelor of Music from the University of Florida, where I studied jazz guitar with Tom Lippincott and composition with Susan Epstein-Garcia. I am also an avid cartoonist, collector of rare books, and long-distance runner.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I spent a considerable amount of time at the Books and Books in Coral Gables. For music I have fond memories of Churchill’s pub where I used to attend a jazz session on Sunday nights. Of my favorite spots to eat there is Cafe Pastis in South Miami and Soya & Pomodoro from when I used to work at the college music library Downtown.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Jane Pyle (died on December 2007) was a humanities and music theory teacher at Miami Dade College who encouraged me to develop my creative capabilities in music, lent me music to study and facilitated my transfer to a composition program at the New World School of the Arts.