Miguel Romero began expressing himself through music as far back as he can remember,on the most basic of instruments. When I was little I would walk around banging on pots and pans," laughs the Cuban-born Atlanta resident. "I grew up with music, my father was a musician and my uncle still makes music today." Romero and his family came from Cuba in 1976. After a short stint in Miami, they moved to Washington Heights in New York City. Romero says that his neighborhood contributed a great deal to his character. "Although I lived in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood, you could walk one block either way and you would meet Puerto Ricans or Dominicans or whatever," he says. "New York is just a very culturally rich and eclectic place to live." The composer/pianist says he grew up on jazz, funk and traditional Cuban music. The eclectic backdrop of New York and Romero's musical background provided the influence for Miguel Romero's sound. SAME ART, DIFFERENT REASONS
Although making music has always been his profession, it's been in different capacities. Romero graduated with a bachelor's degree in musical composition from the City University of New York. For years he had a production house. He produced for artists as well as for commercial clients, making music for advertisements and cable shows. Today, his work is much different. Now Romero composes and plays music for himself. No one comes to him with preconceived ideas of what something is "supposed" to sound like. "When you have clients come in, everybody thinks that they are a composer," explains Romero. "With [my] own band, if you love my music, wonderful. If you hate my music, then there is only one person to blame -that's me. When you are doing production work, there are actually a lot of people to blame, and it's usually not the composer." For him, expression was a key motivator behind his decision to leave the profession. "I wanted to express myself fully," he says. "I had a lot to say, and that's what I am doing now." Besides composing and performing, Romero also teaches. Last January he began teaching musical composition to kids aged 12 and 13 through the American Composers Forum. He says that working with children on an intimate level gives him a feeling of satisfaction. As an adolescent, Romero went to the Jazzmobile, a non-profit organization that provides jazz education, via professional musicians, to children and adolescents. "Working with youth is a wonderful way of giving back," Romero says. THE ESSENCE OF LIFE
Three years ago, Romero and his wife moved to Atlanta with plans to buy a house and make the city a "hub" while he played in Europe. But he says that after September 11 he has not wanted to travel. Lately he has been playing shows - the latest one being the Atlanta Jazz Festival - and concentrating on his upcoming album. Until this point, Romero has released two albums, "Island Breeze" and "Cuban Jazz Funk." Romero says that the music on "Island Breeze" is a tribute to his uncles, who played nightly at the Tropicana in Havana. "Cuban Jazz Funk," like the name states, combines the elements of all of his musical influences. Romero says he is content right now. He lives what he calls the "essence of life." "I get paid for what I do and I love what I do and that's the essence of life, getting paid for something you love." By Lino R. Rodríguez Jr.
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