After years of working as a sideman and collaborator to other artists' creative endeavors, Roger has embarked on my own artist’s journey to develop the character and repertoire of improvised music through the lens of a DIY emo musician.
Growing up in a bi-cultural environment (Latinx & American), the music he was exposed to came from across a spectrum of genres. His youth in the Bronx was most affected by the music my family listened to, which was largely salsa and merengue by artists like Marc Anthony and Juan Luis Guerra. He was fortunate enough to live a quick train ride away from performances by the most forward-thinking living jazz artists of today, such as saxophonist Joshua Redman, pianist Aaron Parks and drummer Brian Blade. He witnessed live examples of boundaries in jazz/improvised music being broken in ways that have directly affected my playing and musicality.
In contrast, his teenage years were spent in New Jersey hanging out with punk rockers listening to metal and hip hop, with artists like Avenged Sevenfold, Metallica, Eminem, and Lupe Fiasco in heavy rotation on his first iPod mini. He was introduced to emo/post-hardcore shows in high school, largely in DIY settings. He loved the excitement and bombastic energy of movement in the moment with the crowds of these shows. Even as a self-proclaimed “band geek”, participating in marching band, pit orchestras, jazz combos and big bands, he frequented concerts by bands Circa Survive, Underoath, and Enter Shikari.
I began performing jazz saxophone competitively in high school while keeping science as my academic focus. This led me to Carnegie Mellon University for engineering, where I graduated with honors. With a supposed career trajectory in science, I worked at PPG for just over a 1 year before being laid off (due to downsizing). That job loss created a paradigm shift in my life and gave me time for serious self-reflection. It was during this period of time that I decided music needed to be my career.
While at PPG, I began performing in the Pittsburgh DIY scene and continued to do so for 3+ years before beginning work as a freelance saxophone player. My band, a four-piece alt-jazz outfit called Eastend Mile, played fusion jazz at rock shows to a predominantly rock audience. Performing music that I helped create was intoxicating; I loved the thrill of fronting a band on stage. Playing original music live in Pittsburgh and growing an audience for the music further cemented my resolve to write and perform music for a living. I was no longer lying to myself or forcing myself into the “scientist/engineer” box. I am and have always been my truest self as an artist and musician.