Thursday, March 12, 2009

Maria Del Rey Interview

I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with Maria Del Rey. She is a Latin Grammy Nominee and sings wonderful Bilingual children's music. One of the first CD's I found for my children was The Peanut Man. It is a fun collection of songs of Latin America. I love the Latin rhythms and beats. My girls loved singing along with it and I honestly loved listening to it as well. It does make you want to dance. I can't wait to try her Lullabies of Latin America CD that was nominated for a Latin Grammy.

Look at the next post for details on the giveaway!

Here are the answers to my questions:

When did you first start singing?

Well, I started as a concert cellist when I was ten years old. I was very inspired to play beautiful Latin American cello music, things from Villa Lobos. By the time I was 21, I realized that my cello professors had me singing all the arias, all the beautiful pieces. A great cellist is like a great singer, you study the same type of operatic phrasing as you do as an opera singer…. Here I was 21, one day I got an opportunity to sing on something just for fun, and I realized, “Wow, I can really sing!“ It started kind of late...[but] I went, “Woo, this feels nice and you don’t have to carry a big heavy cello." The next thing I knew, it naturally moved into singing, more singing, and more singing. I still play the cello of course, but it became such a delight [to sing]. That was in Miami and then when I moved to Los Angeles, I got on the ground floor of singing on a lot of Spanish advertising and Spanish records: the first versions of Coca Cola in Spanish and Sears and Roebucks in Spanish. …And that created my love for bilingual music at that time.

Tell me about the products that the Maria Del Rey Company offers.

For 20 years now, we have produced beautiful children’s music that is a cultural celebration of Hispanic and also multicultural [people], generally just opening our eyes to children around the world. So my talent has been not just singing… I am a producer. That’s my greatest love because producing is a little bit of every single thing that I love to do. So for the last 20 years, I have produced many beautiful works out in the world and some have gone [out in] up to six languages. So the body of the work I have done the last 20 years is preparing us now. We are actually launching a brand new company on Mother’s Day this year…It is a focus on comfort and friendship for families. … We’re really excited about it.

How did you learn both English and Spanish?

Well, I had the great fortune to grow up in Miami, where it’s like North Havana, so you can go two or three days without ever having to speak English in Miami. So not only are you completely bilingual in language, but you are bilingual in culture… Actually I learned English second, I learned English when I was about seven years old. So Spanish is my first language. My mom and dad are obviously both from Cuba. I was born in Cuba as well and my brother. We spoke Spanish all the time, and then, when my brother and I got a little bit older… we would just speak in English all the time, because that’s what you do in school, right? My dad made a rule: no Spanish, no food… so we were quite motivated… it was food that brought us to our senses, to always speak in Spanish. I don’t think that I would do that now, but… it worked in our family. My sweet dad is probably one of the main reasons I do what I do. He was so proud of the Hispanic culture and he constantly said people just don’t understand how beautiful and rich and varied Latin America is and all the different types of people that make it go round.

What do you think motivates kids to learn a second language?

Well, I have to say that I think if you follow a Violin study method (I come from that background), called Suzuki. They do something extraordinarily well, they first teach kids how to play the instrument. You play for the love of it, you just play. You don’t talk about theory; you don’t bore anybody to death. You don’t learn 500 conjugations of how to play that chord. I think that the experience of songs is why we have been successful in doing what we do. The experience of songs, it brings joy and it brings movement and it brings opportunity to try new things on your tongue. Kids like it. It’s fun…
We believe and know …in our hearts as producers that children are brilliant. They are very, very intelligent…I think to inspire kids is to [let] them have small successes…Like just teaching them how to order [at] the Mexican food restaurant, …You could go once a month, and every month, they [order] the whole thing…Making fun, little field trips and [teaching] little scripts… builds confidence. You want to build confidence a little bit at a time. This makes it fun for the family. Then the whole family learns the little script. They all just speak the language together, before anybody gets bored out of their mind about how to conjugate Spanish… To follow the Suzuki method in Spanish would be an extraordinary thing to do.

How did you come up with the idea for The Peanut Man CD?

The story of the Peanut Man is a real life story that I am going to someday make into a film. In the meantime, I just couldn’t wait any longer, and I had to record the song. It’s a fabulous story about a real man from the 1920’s who lived in Havana. He decided that words were a waste of time and he never spoke to anyone, speaking, he only sang to them. He even had a little rhyme [be]cause he felt that words were for the birds and that song is the only way to really truly communicate to humans. It is going to be a live, action… non-animated [film], a beautiful, sweet story about this man who really valued the power of song and communication versus words. That will probably take me about 5 years to make that film. But I look forward to doing it because it is a great story. A great story about personal responsibility of what you say. The record became Songs and Stories from Latin America

I absolutely love the Lullabies of Latin America. It was an experiment of intentionality. We organized a very quiet studio setting. Every musician who played, everybody who came in, it was the intention to really nurture and create a beautiful environment of adoration, of enjoying the beautiful parent and child connection. So Lullabies of Latin America, I feel, has magic fairy dust on it because it was really truly blessed. It has been our best seller. The Peanut Man is a very fun version, but the Lullabies, to me, is wonderful, wonderful. It was nominated for a Latin Grammy. (end of interview)
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