Sara Perez, a multi-instrumentalist and music teacher, is getting geared up to perform in the Tennessee Williams-inspired dance drama “Snakeskin,” which debuts May 15-17 at UCSD’s Forum Theater. A year ago, the Baltimore-raised musician was invited by composer Krishan Oberoi to become a member of Sacra/Profana, a professional choral organization popularly known as San Diego’s go-to choral ensemble.
Perez, like many U.S. Latinos, has a fascinating story of migration and growing up bicultural: She was born in South Carolina to full-time musician parents. When her Portuguese mother won a music lectureship in Guatemala, the family made the big move down south when Perez was only eight months old. Later, her family planted themselves back in the U.S., and of all places in Baltimore, which she lovingly calls her “hometown.” Her parents have since relocated — her mom to England, her dad to Colombia — but both are still music educators.
Like her parents, Perez — a recipient of the Mellon Mays undergraduate fellowship who currently teaches piano, voice and music theory at La Jolla Music — has a passion for teaching music, and she’s spreading that here in San Diego and through the debut of “Snakeskin.”
Dita Quinones: Like the musical’s title, there are transformative elements dealing with race and class warfare in your upcoming performance. What are you most excited about in bringing Tennessee Williams’ work to San Diego audiences?
Sara Perez: I’ll be doing a lot of keyboard work and singing in this project. This project is most exciting for me because of the bridge between the art forms. Although I’m just starting to become familiar with Malashock’s [choreography] work, his creations seem incredibly organic and honest. This coupled with Krishan’s sensibilities in a wide variety of musical tastes, audiences can look forward to hearing a large span of emotions in the music, varying from really beautiful folk tunes to Rite of Spring-esque instrumental portions.
DQ: How do your bicultural experiences in the U.S. lend to your art and music?
SP: It makes singing in Spanish really easy! But actually, this is a hard question. Because I am bicultural, I think I have an alternate viewpoint that influences everything I do and take interest in, not just with art and music. I would be lying if I said that I’m primarily interested in bicultural arts, but I think that because of my cultural interests, it alters how I view art and music that draws from Latino culture.
DQ: Your parents are both successful full-time musicians from two different places.
SP: My mother won a Fulbright Lectureship to advise the Minister of Culture on the reconstruction of the string department at the National Conservatory in Guatemala. She also resurrected/re-organized the Conservatory Symphony Orchestra, which had not been running in two years — this all took place over a period of nine months in 1990. My mother is from Massachusetts — her family is mostly Portuguese and moved to the U.S. just before the Great Depression. She is a cellist and currently the manager of the Bath Philharmonic in England. My father is Colombian. He currently teaches at the Conservatorio del Tolima as the orchestral director and professor of violin and viola. He is a violinist but also a conductor.
DQ: It’s troubling today to know that our children aren’t immersed in or exposed to the dramatic arts — and reality TV don’t count. What do you do to be a socially responsible musician?
SP: I take an immense amount of joy from working with children, primarily at La Jolla Music. I recently started a children’s choir with the director of folklore, Angel Mannion, called Hobbit Choir. We’re hoping to expose young children to a contemporary sense of the choir by working in video-game music and pop music as well as some older, traditional choral music.
DQ: How did you wind up in San Diego?
SP: I moved here in 2012 to pursue my master’s degree in voice performance at UCSD. During and after completion of my degree, I performed with several different groups and churches including Sacra/Profana, San Diego Symphony, St. James by the Sea, Kallisti and Ensemble f0, as well as giving two solo recitals while at UCSD. I hope to continue performing in this music scene. I think there is a lot of hunger for good music in this city!
Perez debuts in “Snakeskin” — a collaboration between Malashock Dance and Sacra/Profana, in partnership with UCSD Department of Theatre & Dance — at UCSD’s Forum, May 15-17. For “Snakeskin” ticket info go here. For updates from Sara Perez, visit her on Facebook.