We had the good fortune of connecting with John Reed-Torres and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi John, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
Well…ever since high school, I’ve been involved in my music in one way or another. It has always generated a sporadic but noteworthy income for me, alongside my various day jobs, and entrepreneurial endeavors.
However being that I hail from a familial background of inherited poverty and socioeconomic barriers, the necessity of maintaining a “day job” to support myself, and help support my mother, and a roof over our heads; life since late high school has always been a balance between developing and pursuing my semi-professional musical career and working a job for consistent income. I consider it a safety net, if you will. As I enter my 30’s (just turned 30), I see the balance is changing somewhat but also stabilizing. I am begining a career as a Metro bus driver, but also engaged in virtual music projects (on account of this pandemic).
At the beginning of 2020, I worked as a “paper pusher” at a law firm, a movie projectionist, and performer at the Old Town Music Hall in El Segundo, and gigged at 1642 Wine Bar in Echo Park, as well as various gigs at ragtime festivals locally and abroad. However since the pandemic hit, the law office downsized, the theater closed until further notice, the bar ceased dine in options, and the festivals ground to a halt (with the exception of virtual substitutes, which I have performed in).
So 2020 presented a huge shift for me and my music. Yet, I have found ways to continue doing what I love, and presenting my art to my audience, while adapting.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Well, as a Black-Chicano, bisexual man from South Central Los Angeles, I feel that I bring to my music a unique perspective, that is different from most others who are producing ragtime music today. The scene is dominated by white performers, and although I consider many of my colleagues as dear friends; we have different stories to tell through our music.
I’m quite proud of the fact that my music was built on sacrifice and perseverance. I sought out ways to obtain lessons in my youth, when financial resources were unavailable. Through work-study and partial scholarships, I was able to obtain training and refinement at the historic Neighborhood Music School in Boyle Heights. I have used that musical education and life experiences to compose pieces which have inspired conductors to arrange them for their orchestras. I even had the opportunity to perform my music in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2017 ( a highlight of my musical career ).
The journey to where I am today was anything but easy, but had it been, I would not be the artist that I am today, and for that I am grateful for the lessons which life has taught me so far, and you can certainly hear that through my music. You learn that, if the trail ahead doesn’t suit your fancy, you can certainly blaze your own through perseverance.
My music is a reflection of myself and my cultural pride. Ragtime music originated from black musical traditions. It’s polyrhythmic syncopations are the building blocks for all popular music today.
It’s the first domestically developed popular musical form, which lead the way for Jazz, and all subsequent musical genres.
It’s a union of black / indigenous rhythms and tonality, western european harmonic theories, and late 19th/early 20th century musical formats, to create a rollicking and infectious, almost spiritually melancholic yet hopefully optimistic dance music. It is a musical example of a melting pot. It signifies the bonds which tie us together as human beings. Bonds which can be found in every art form.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
wform.well definitely before this pandemic, I would and have invited many friends to the Old Town Music Hall in El Segundo. It’s home of the Mighty Wurlitzer Theater Pipe Organ (since 1968). It was the brain child of my late friend/mentor Mr. Bill Field (who was also a musician), and is contained inside a historic silent movie theater from 1921. (www.oldtownmusichall.org) Some of my other favorite places to go and take friends around town include: Phillipes- home of the original French dip, in Down Town, Carroll Ave in Angelino Heights, home of the highest concentration of Victorian homes in Los Angeles, 1642 Wine Bar in Echo Park, where we had (and hopefully will resume after the pandemic) live ragtime Tuesday nights, The Griffith Observatory, The Bayou in WeHo, Tacos Al “Cabron” in East L.A., The Oddsquad Coffee cruise night, (which is a weekly classic car club/meet that I belong to, with my 1972 Plymouth Valiant), to Angel’s Flight in DTLA which is the world’s shortest railway, which opened in 1901 and is the namesake of my Album: Angel’s Flight – Genuine Los Angeles Ragtime (which can be found on iTunes)
1642 Wine Bar has now resumed ragtime Tuesday nights (where I perform occasionally). And that I had my first post vaccination live performance at the Historic John William “Blind” Boone house in Columbia, Mo on July 2nd, 2021.
And many more places. As a native Los Angelino, my list of favorite places can go on forever.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
This Shoutout goes out to the West Coast Ragtime Society and the late Mr. Bill Field of Old Town Music Hall, both of which have given me a platform since 2011 to showcase and develope my artistic work to a broader audience, facilitating it’s local and international notoriety.