Neotech Ambassador Feature: Pedro Esparza

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Multi-instrumentalist and longtime Neotech Ambassador, Pedro Esparza, made the time for an interview with us and it was so much fun hearing about his inspiring journey as a professional musician!

Thanks so much for taking the time to meet today, Pedro! You've been a Neotech ambassador for a long time and I'm so eager to hear more of your life story! Let's get started!

What instruments do you play?

I play the flute, clarinet, piano, and the saxophone.

Wow! It takes a lot of talent to be able to play all of those instruments! That's amazing!

How long have you been a musician and what was the first instrument you started to play?

I started off with saxophone when I was 11 or 12 years old, so I've been playing for about 25 years now. I had a really good buddy who was in 5th grade who introduced me to it. I had just gotten to the States- I'm a first generation Latino. I didn't have a lot of friends and he was very musically inclined. His parents had raised him as a pianist and he grew up in a Southern Baptist household. His mom was a pianist and she was teaching him. He was really good. When the time for middle school band came, he said, "I'm going to do saxophone." He asked me, "What do you want to do?" I was like, "Well, I'm going to do saxophone too! I don't want to loose our friendship if you're going to do band and I'm not."

The saxophone seemed really cool at the time and that's what got me excited about it- in middle school.

That's such a neat history and reason for getting started with the saxophone!

You mentioned coming to the States, where are you originally from?

I'm from Colombia- South America. I was there for about 8-10 years, so that's where I grew up basically. I came to the States after that. I've been in North Carolina for about 23 years and I've been in Austin, Texas (where I live now) for about 2 years.

Oh man, I love Austin, Texas! There food is so good there! I'm from Houston- it was always fun driving up to Austin and seeing how lively it was in that city!

Yes, the food is so good- not gonna lie! I really like the live music scene here too!

Yeah! I know Austin is known for having a lot of music festivals and such!

Yeah, South by Southwest (SXSW) and Austin City Limits. There's live music almost everywhere. There's always someone playing live in pretty much every spot I know of in town... even on a Tuesday night.

It really is so alive and vibrant there! Such a cool place to live and with you being a musician, I'm sure you really enjoy it!

So I meant to ask this question earlier but have you been able to keep in contact with that friend that first got you interested in playing the saxophone?

Yes! We had a high school reunion. He did saxophone for middle school and high school, but then he switched to playing more piano once we got into jazz band because we needed someone more proficient and he was more advanced in piano than in saxophone- he had been playing the piano since he was 5. We did a reunion concert. He came and we got to hangout more then. It was really good.

Well that's so cool how he inspired you with music and to see where you are now... amazing!

Yeah, it was really weird. I did it because I didn't want to lose my buddy. I was like 9 or 10 years old. I was very much shadowing what he was doing.

That's great that it helped you realize your passion!

So how did you start playing your other musical instruments? Once you started playing saxophone, did you get inspired to try other instruments?

Once I was in high school, I played saxophone in the marching band for 2 years. I was really good and it started to get a little boring. The music in high school is not 4 years of progressive growth... it's more like 2 and then you kind of just stay there. So I felt like I had reached that point and I wasn't finding it challenging anymore. My high school director said, "Hey, why don't you find a different instrument?" He had a tuba and 3 method books. He said, "If you want to play tuba, you can go play tuba.... take this tuba, take these 7th and 8th grade method books, and go learn to play the tuba. You can play it in the marching band." So I did tuba for 2 years. It was really fun. I got to do tuba in the fall and saxophone in the winter for concert band and then for jazz band the following semester.

Wow! That's really cool!

Yeah, so it sparked that interest and in college, when I got my degree in music, my professor said, "If you want to play saxophone professionally, you can't just do that. It won't put enough money on the table. You have to learn to play the other instruments." I said, "What do you mean other instruments?" He said, "Well you have to learn to play all the saxophones- all of them well- and then you also have to play flute and clarinet. As a professional saxophonist, you'll be asked to go do musicals and shows and sometimes, the music is not always going to be for just one instrument. You have to be able to pick them all up."

That's awesome. So that obviously really challenged you to learn those other instruments!

So then how did you pick up piano? Was it around that time too?

Yeah! I had dabbed a little in piano very early, but I didn't have the maturity to stick to it. Once I was in college and it was a requirement, I studied it more seriously and learned how to read music. We did a piano jazz course and it kind of help me get my ideas out on paper. So yeah, more in college.

Well that's really amazing that you were able to pick up and learn that many instruments. It's great that it gives you that variety and that versatility as a professional musician. That's so valuable!

Pedro, what would you say is your favorite style of music, if you had to choose one?

I'd say pop. It's what I'm currently playing with this one duo here in Austin. We get to play a lot of cool stuff, like from the 90s and 2000s. We have a very pop arrangement of "I Will Survive" and we play stuff from the Black Eyed Peas. Because of the harmonic structure, it allows me to just go as crazy as I want- versus some other gigs that are a little more limiting.

That's really neat that you can have that freedom when playing pop!

What inspires you as a musician?

I love the journey... I know that sounds like the most vague answer, but as a musician, I know my starting points and I know my ending points, but I don't know how I am going to get there. That journey... those curves... those hills of self discovery and those valleys of tambers and textures really make that getting from point A to point B very interesting. It's never the same. I think for me, it also helps that I have really bad short term memory, so I tend to not replicate what I play. That allows me to come in with a very fresh, clean slate every time I play the song. If we do, for example, "I Will Survive" in a very Europop kind of style, I can play it today... then play it 3 days later, and my sound will be very different. I won't remember what I play today 3 days from now. It allows me to revisit that whole journey all over again.

Wow! That was a very deep answer for a question I just threw at you! I love how you talked about how music takes you on a journey.

Another big question here: What are some future goals you have as a musician?

Ohhh... I have taken a little bit of a break from making content. I was due for two things. I had just moved to Austin so Covid put everything on pause. There was no live music and it felt really weird. I had visited Austin pre-Covid and it was amazing!! I could go from one door in town to the other and hear a completely different band. The move here right around Covid didn't help.

Also, not to put a downer on the interview, but I had someone break in and steal all of my stuff. They stole all of my saxophones, all of my flutes, all of my clarinets.... mouthpieces... reeds. They took everything. It wasn't until probably July of last year that I was able to get one tenor . I started playing with that band , and I started getting more revenue so that I could get a Bari Sax. So, my goal now is to rebuild my arsenal. I do miss playing my alto and my soprano. I really like doing the multi-instrument arrangements, but I just can't physically do them because I don't have all the instruments anymore.

That's terrible! I'm really sorry to hear that! Let me know if you need more straps and I'll send some you're way soon!

Honestly, after that happened, the Sax Practice Harness was the first thing I bought as soon as I ordered my new tenor. It is truly a God-send. The way that strap works versus anything else.... The harness that some saxophone companies send you with the saxophone is nice, flashy, and high-end, but it doesn't alleviate the weight of having that horn on you for 4+ hours. That's just a tenor. If you do that on a bari... a bari is like 13.5 pounds strapped on you for that long... I can't just depend on one strap that wraps around my neck. So that harness... I can do that all night with that thing on!

That makes us at Neotech so happy to hear!

Oh yeah absolutely! I was just getting things back together and so I didn't even message you guys about trying to get some new straps. I just knew that I needed it. It's essential for me to still be alive after a 4 hour gig! I love what you guys make and so that's why I made that Sax Practice Harness> video.
Video Pedro Esparza made highlighting the Neotech Sax Practice Harness

We loved that video! A lot of people at Neotech were talking about it after seeing it on social media!

I had seen something like that video style on TikTok so I thought, "I can do that to show the harness!" I'll keep thinking of other trends like that to make more videos for you guys!

We'd love to use it for our new brand video we will be making for when we go to NAAM! Will you be at NAAM this year?

I can see about coming! I'm actually really good friends with Ryan Saranich so I can see if he might be going. He's actually the gentleman who introduced me to the president of the company at one of the NAAM shows. I was already using the straps and he was the one who suggested the Sax Practice Harness- which I was already sold on- but yeah, I had the chance to meet the president. It was really cool. Ryan and I actually went to college together. We had a couple of years that we played together. We have a lot of history together!

Yeah! We love Ryan. We've had a relationship with him for years here at Neotech. He invited us to see him play with Britt Floyd at the Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado. One of our interns was able to make it and said it was absolutely incredible!!

Yeah, he's a great guy!

So I think you just answered the next question I had for you. It was going to be: "How you did you discover Neotech Straps!"

Well I was already using the normal harness at the time... which I don't remember the exact name of it... but it didn't have the aluminum support in it like the Sax Practice Harness does. I know from my marching band days that alleviating all that weight was only going to happen if you worked with more solid materials. Ryan had his and was like, "Dude, get the Practice Harness?" I was like, "Practice Harness? No I don't need a practice harness, I need something for gigs!"

Oh so the product name was throwing you off? haha

Yeah! He told me to get it though so I went and bought it off either Amazon or your store directly. I got it, tried it on, and oh- it felt like I didn't have anything on my shoulders! It's a big difference. I was a customer before I was anything else .

That's incredible! Do you remember how many years ago that was?

I would say it was in 2015, so it's been about 10 years.

Nice! So you kind of already answered this.. but if someone asked you why they should use Neotech Straps in general, what would you say?

I would say that the design and the quality makes it just one less thing to have to worry about . It becomes a point of safety knowing that your equipment is going to stay on. When I put that strap on... once that clip is on... that spring is so good... I'm not worried about it accidentally slipping out. I've had other neck straps that didn't have that full enclosing loop and with those other straps, I've had the instruments slip out and thankfully I was fortunate enough to grab them before they fell. When I put on the Sax Practice Harness>, like that step you see in the video, I feel comfortable that my instrument is going to stay on, it's not going anywhere. So yeah the quality, the material.... it's just a good design!

Well thank you for that feedback! At Neotech, what you said your experience is with our strap is what we strive for! We want musicians to feel and know that their instruments are safe and to feel comfort when wearing our straps! We want musicians to only have to think about their passions!

One last question! How did you build your solid social media following? I'm sure there are other musicians out there who see your page and want to know how you built that community so that they can do the same!

I shadowed a lot of people. I look at what kind of content they put out. I also look at their hashtags and try to come up with a similar scheme. I don't only follow other musicians but other types of people on social media and see what they do. I adapt that to what I do. The way I see it is: Content is unknown until you tell that specific platform that you are using what it is. You can put a video of the most amazing performance on there but if the video name is, for example, "," that doesn't help search engines or platforms at all. So adding accurate hashtags, captions, and descriptions is so important. The more you are able to tell the internet about your content, the more it will be able to successfully push it out on the platforms that you are on.

Good advice, Pedro!

Thank you so much for being our ambassador for so many years!! 5 years now!

Oh yeah!

And finally, again, thank you so much for your time in doing this interview! I cannot wait to share it with our Neotech community and the world!!

Use the icon links below to connect with Pedro Esparza!

A couple of links to some of Pedro's most popular works (from my YouTube channel)

Jurassic Park Theme -
Thriller -
Star Wars -
Super Mario 3D World -
Pokemon Theme -

Mini-Lesson - Bari Sax

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