From the Rat Pack to Vivaldi, Owatonna musician Alfonso Tellez Jr. is finding his musical voice.
By Clare Kennedy
Alfonso Tellez, Jr. never considered himself a musician until 2006 — when he was 22 years old.
It’s an unusual start, but then again Tellez is anything but typical.
His greatest inspiration is Antonio Vivaldi, a baroque master from Venice who died 269 years ago. In the next few weeks, Tellez will release “My Classical Movement, Vol. 2,” a disc of compositions that is more akin to “The Four Seasons” than to anything in heavy rotation on the radio today.
How did this happen? Maybe it was fate. Tellez has no formal training in music. Music runs in his family, he said, but he never had piano lessons, he didn’t sing in his high school’s show choir, and he was never in band or orchestra. Most of his exposure to music making came from his father and his uncles — who sing and play Latin and Tejano music. This didn’t grab his interest, however. Prior to 2006, Tellez had a hard time describing what he wanted to do, what he wanted to become in his adulthood.
“Whenever people asked me what I pictured myself doing after high school I would say ‘I don’t know,’” Tellez said. No one expected him to take up music.“I was surprised,” said his mother Elida Tellez. “He was always around his dad and he played the piano some, but I never thought he would become a musician and a writer.”
Tellez’s course became clear after a failed relationship — an episode of “heartbreak” that he is still loath to talk about in detail. Music became an unexpected source of solace for Tellez. “I just started writing my emotions down on paper. They weren’t lyrics. They were just words,” Tellez said. “Then I just started humming melodies and one thing led to another. It came out naturally.” Tellez gradually learned to play piano by ear.
After more than two years of trial and error, Tellez released his first disc in 2006 — “Complicated” — what he refers to as his “pop” album. At the time, he was most influenced by crooners like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and the rest of the Rat Pack.“He played me his CD and I said ‘Who is this?’” Elida recalled. “He said, ‘It’s me, Mom.’ I’m very proud of him. It’s amazing that all this comes out of his head.”
From there, Tellez’s work began to go in a different direction. Tellez ran across Vivaldi’s music quite by accident.“I just happened to get into it. I was experimenting with various orchestral instruments and I just fell in love with it,” Tellez said. “Everyone knows Beethoven and Mozart. Vivaldi is my favorite. There’s something about his music that just grabs you.”
In 2009, he put out “My Classical Movement Vol. 1.” Then he immediately started work on Vol. 2. A month ago, Tellez moved to Owatonna from Kenyon. Like Owatonna’s own Adam Young, a.k.a. Owl City, Tellez makes his music in the solitude of his basement floor bedroom, with keyboards, high-end plugs ins and computers. This disc took him about five months to complete — a period that included both composition and recording.
Now his task is to promote his work, something that he finds more challenging than music-making. “It’s a little different with classical. With pop music you just try to get played at a club or go to an open mic night,” Tellez said. “With classical you have to pitch it to ensembles or orchestral groups and try and get them to play your music.” Another option is to sell the music as a score for video games, movies or television shows. “I want to showcase it on a bigger stage,” Tellez said.
The new disc is one of three releases planned for 2010. He has two other discs forthcoming — “My Time” and an EP called “Accelerando.”
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"Music Drives Me, Music Pulls Me, Music Talks To Me. Every Bit of Concentration is What Sets Me Free"