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Meet Jorge Luis Escalona Reyna, Musician Extraordinaire!

2017 saw Garza Blanca Preserve welcoming a team of talented cuban musicians as part of the resorts’ Music for the Senses program that aims to provide a melodious backdrop to your experiences by the pools, on the beach and in the restaurants. This month’s newsletter is dedicated to Jorge Luis Escalona Reyna whom you will meet as he serenades you with his trumpet during various times of the day. He took some time to share details about his life and passion.

 

When did your passion for the trumpet begin?

I was born on a small island off the coast of Cuba called La Isla de la Juventud where I studied music in a vocational arts school from an early age. My major was trumpet and singing, but when my voice began to change as I hit puberty, I realized that I was not going to excel at school because I was unable to hit the notes I needed in the singing classes. So, I changed direction and studied fine art, graduating around 1999. From there, I worked in galleries and dedicated my time to painting and drawing, but all the time I was drawn to music.

While I was working in a Cultural Center on the island—I must have been about 24 years old—I decided to study music again. At work I was surrounded by musician friends and so I borrowed a trumpet and began teaching myself—or rather, I was reminding myself, as I already had a good base from school.  At first it was for pleasure and then I realized that being a professional trumpet player was what I really wanted to do. It was hard getting back into the swing of playing the trumpet after what must have been 10 years. The trumpet is one of the most difficult instruments to play, but I gave it my all, practicing all the time. Some time later, some musicians from work heard me playing and invited me to rehearse with them. They helped get me an audition for my first job as a professional musician.

What makes playing the trumpet difficult?

The trumpet works by vibration, by making your lips vibrate; so the sound totally depends on the physical control of your lips. For example, the saxophone has a mouthpiece with a reed that vibrates, plus you control the notes with a whole variety of keys as well as an octave button. When it comes to the trumpet, it relies on the muscles in your lips with only three keys. If your lips change, the instrument sounds completely different.

You develop the muscles through practice. Even if you stop playing for a few days, you will notice a change in your lips; it doesn’t matter how good you are, you have to exercise your lips by practicing. Furthermore, it is more physically challenging than other instruments, including other wind instruments, because the sound is controlled so intimately with your breath.

Do you still paint?

Not really. Now and again I might paint for a hobby. What I really liked was drawing and working with charcoal.

What is a typical day at work like for you?

Here we have a strict routine; we play for around 5 hours a day, with some time for rehearsals and practice. Usually I get up late in the morning, because we tend to work until late at night. I have breakfast, talk a little with my girlfriend and plan our day ahead. I don’t have much time before I have to head to work for around 12pm to get ready to play. Usually I will play from 1pm until 3pm, then have some free time before playing again in the evening from 7pm until 10pm. Sometimes I might go home in between, or I might stay at the hotel to rehearse with the other three musicians. Once a week, one of us will play a late session on the Rooftop of Hotel Mousai until 12.30.

What is your favorite type of music?

I love “American” music, like blues or jazz, but most of all I love salsa or Cuban son. There is something so alive about the music. I dream about playing with a big orchestra in the trumpet section.  

 

What do you like to do in your free time in Puerto Vallarta?

In my free time, I try to forget about music completely and spend time with my girlfriend looking for new things to do and see. We are just getting to know Puerto Vallarta little by little. I love the views and the climate here; it reminds me of home. Last week we went to the town of Yelapa by a boat, spent some time relaxing on the beach and swimming with the fish. I’m looking forward to visiting more places.

Do you still have family in Cuba?

Yes! My son is in Cuba, Jorge Luis, Jorgito [little Jorge]. He’s four years old and already loves music; he has music in his veins. My parents are there too, still happily married. It would be lovely for them to come and visit one day. They would love it here.