First Lady Presents
May 2022: Angelo Monroy
My husband, Steve, proclaimed May 2021 as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in the state of Nevada to recognize the contributions and influence of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to the history, culture, and achievements of the United States. The month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad on May 10, 1869, where Chinese immigrants played a main role in the building of this historic American infrastructure project. Today, Asian American and Pacific Islander healthcare workers make up a 19% share of all healthcare workers, the third highest share of healthcare workforce in the U.S.
This month, the Nevada State Museum Curator’s Corner features a hand-made shark tooth sword from the Gilbert Islands, located in the central Pacific Ocean about 2,500 miles southwest of Hawaii. The manual dexterity shown in the craftsmanship of this carefully handled artifact is outstanding in detail. We juxtapose this white-glove museum artifact with the musical handiwork of Angelo Monroy, a recent graduate of the University of Nevada, Reno with a Master’s of Music in Jazz Performance, Piano. Angelo hails from across the Pacific Ocean as well and we are so very fortunate to have his talent here in Nevada.
Together as Nevadans, let us study the past, honor the present, and envision the future.
This month, it is my pleasure to present… Angelo Monroy!
Photo Credit: Chris Casaceli
Courtesy of the Artist
“Now more than ever, I believe that music is a social responsibility.”
Angelo Monroy, UNR Department of Music interview, 2021
Angelo Monroy is a Reno-based pianist, composer, educator, and a frequent collaborator of both For the Love of Jazz and Reno Jazz Orchestra. Born in Hong Kong to a musical family, his work is primarily inspired by and dedicated towards interpreting the Black American musical traditions that have continued to pervade his life thus far. Above all, he aims to help engage audiences and to break down socio-cultural barriers not only through his creative output, but also through his relentless pursuit of artistic and personal integrity. Angelo is currently working on two albums of original music to be released in 2023 — one featuring his own quartet and the other featuring his work as a singer-songwriter. Angelo hosts a monthly concert series, Angelo’s Piano Salon, at Laughing Planet’s University of Nevada, Reno location every first Friday of the month with sets at 7:30pm and 8:30pm.
There is a duality of purposeful truth, for others and for one’s self, that Angelo Monroy pursues both on and off the stage.
Cognizant of being an Asian practitioner of Black diasporic music, Monroy’s ongoing pursuit to learn jazz music history, as a continuum to center Black voices, comes with a fresh degree of reverence and humility. As an immigrant himself, with his own Chinese community subject to marginalization and violence enhanced by the pandemic, truth, history, and representation matter in everything. Angelo cites Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker as historic dance hall notables defining not only jazz music history among musicians, but also what the jazz genre has done, both then and now, to create communal audience experiences which he says rests among the cultural ranks of folklore, story-telling, and intergenerationally passed traditions.
Knowing that an audience’s experience rests upon the actual lived experience of those performing, and when those perspectives are aligned, says Monroy, there is an unspoken conversation – a visceral bond. A tap of the foot, a nod of the head, a slap on the thigh – these are the unifying universal audience contributions which he says undeniably complete any musical score.
While some musicians may choose to wear alternate identities on stage, Monroy’s responsibility and honesty of music origin with which he performs for audiences is well balanced against the accountability and truth with which he presents himself. “It’s easy to understand who I am,” says Monroy, “my personality will make itself known in the music.” And such self-transparency was made apparent in Monroy’s graduate recital held April 25, 2021 entitled Angelo Monroy Presents: Neurodivergent Piano (starts at 6:30 marker) featuring Ben Ghusn (tenor sax), Julien Knowles (trumpet), Greg Lewis (drums), DJ Saycich (alto sax), and Zack Teran (bass). Aside from the recital title, an audience would be hard pressed to find any type of overt, variant neurological function among the musicians or the performances. And that was the point. Angelo’s decision to wear a black t-shirt with Neurodivergent across the chest written in a hot pink neon font was an open nod to his own transparency in being diagnosed with ADHD. “As much as I want to distinguish my neurodivergent experience, I also want to normalize it,” he states during the performance. “I don’t have to try hard to play neurodivergent piano- it is in everything I do.”
For more information on Angelo Monroy, please visit his Instagram account.
Lily Baran (vocals), Redfield Clipper (guitar), Greg Lewis (drums), Angelo Monroy (piano)
Dylan Coleman (bass), Angelo Monroy (piano), David Gervais (drums) Julien Knowles (trumpet)
Photo Credit: Chris Casaceli
Photo Courtesy of the artist
Photo Courtesy of the Artist
Mark Steel Wool Salinas is a Reno-based public arts administrator and cultural curator. He is the Senior Project Manager at Forecast Public Art authoring arts and culture master plans, public art policies, and creative workforce strategies for non-profits, developers, airports, as well as city, county, and state arts agencies nationwide.
He serves locally as a board member for the City of Reno Arts & Culture Commission (Chair), the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts, the Nevada Arts Council, and Americans for the Arts Public Art Network.
Alongside Nevada First Lady Kathy Sisolak and the Nevada State Museum, he established ‘The First Lady presents…’ in 2019 and serves its Curator. Follow him on Instagram: @MarkSteelWoolSalinas