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The Bold Entrance of Aaron Ruiz

There I was on a no-particular Tuesday, taking in the music at the Liverpool Limp Lizard Open Jam. The house band —to whom I refer as the Tuesday Night Lizards— was kicking ass as usual. … and friends were sitting in, kicking ass as usual. 

Unexpected things happen in great ways in this room. And wouldn’t you know it, while sipping a special tequila (that the house gets just for me -heh), I notice somebody new taking the stage. College dude. Tall. He appeared to be very shy, kind of looking downward in that shyness. Not at all nervous, just shy. Modest as a person. Hmmm … I always get interested when somebody takes the stage in this way ever since I saw a 10-year old kid beat the living daylights out of Gospel tune At the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival several years ago.

The house band on the other hand appeared to be rather excited. With a quick discussion among the players, some positive head-nodding and a four-count, they opened the tune.

From choirs to musicals to Jazz Jam at Funk ‘n Waffles, Aaron is making his way through the music scene on his way up.

Then Aaron Ruiz opened his mouth and introduced us all to the next signable act that Syracuse has to offer. Yep. This is what went through my mind as he sang line one. I thought the exact same thing when I first saw Jason Mraz at Twiggs Coffee & Tea in San Diego. “This guy’s outta here. What is he doing here?” All conversations in the room immediately stopped as all heads turned to see where this voice was coming from.

By line two all of us were fans. I turned to my lady, and said, “Holy cow, this guy gets it. If he keeps his head on straight, he’s outta here,” as he effortlessly sailed through the upper rafters of a Stevie Wonder tune (written and recorded well before Aaron’s time, I might add … ). Then he sang Freddie Mercury. He sang “Summertime.” What the … So vast, yet, It’s all
effortlessly within range for Aaron. But, that’s just a Tuesday for him.

Aside from messing around on Tuesdays introducing himself to music scene, he attends OCC as a music and voice major. Determined to be working in the “biz,” he reaches out to a variety of outlets to play from theater productions at school, to open jams around the area, to playing with a few groups he is well on track to enjoy a career in music.

At the end of his short set, we made friends and eventually it became his turn to be featured here. Please let me introduce to you, Aaron Ruiz.

Chuck Schiele: Hi Aaron. Welcome to your first of probably many articles.

Aaron Ruiz: Thank you, Chuck.

CS: How long have you been playing music? When did you know you had the gift of music in you?

AR: I’ve been singing since I can remember. My Mom tells me about how I would sing songs in the grocery store. I think it was when I got into choir in elementary school and the Syracuse Children’s Chorus that I realized I might have something special.

CS: Your primary instrument is voice. Do you play any other instruments?

AR: I play a little bit of piano. I took lessons when I was younger; and took piano at OCC. I also sing and play bass drum with the Unity Street Band, (as well as helping with
arrangements) and did auxiliary percussion and cymbals for Lafayette Community Band; and was in the pit for Tully Arts Council’s production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

CS: Currently, I understand you are in college. What’s your major? What do you study?

AR: I’m a music performance major studying voice at OCC. Right now it’s pretty focused on classical, but I’m hoping I can transfer to a school like SUNY Purchase, where I can major in jazz studies.

Syracuse’s next signable act: Aaron Ruiz.

 

CS: Excellent. What has your music experience, been like, so far?

AR: I’ve sung in school choirs from elementary school all the way through college. I sang with the Syracuse Children’s Chorus in elementary school, and sang in all-city, all-county and all-state choir, as well as all-county vocal jazz while in high school. I’ve done several school plays and musicals at Nottingham, (Chicago, You Can’t Take It with You, Rent) and with the rest of the district over the summer (How to Succeed, In the Heights). I also did a few shows with the Red House including Hairspray and Music Man. I’ve gotten to sing with William Gorman, Nick Fields, Joe Cortini, Drew Serafini, and Melissa Gardiner’s MG3. I very recently got to sing with Drew at the Palace Theatre. Currently you can usually find me singing at the Jazz Jam at Funk ‘n Waffles 3-5pm on Sundays or open mic at Limp Lizard 7:30-10:30pm. I also have a gig coming up in January at Green Gate Inn with Julie Howard (date TBA), and there’s a band that’s considering making me a permanent member.

CS: Very good. And, I’m not surprised. I see you at the open jams. You walked into a pack of A-List musicians screwing around on their night off —and you jumped right in about as naturally as anyone ever could to an immediate welcome. What do you think about all that?

AR: It’s pretty humbling when you think about it. But, it helps me reaffirm that this is what I should be doing.

CS: I enthusiastically concur.

AR: Sometimes I doubt whether or not I’m really cut out for this, but seeing everyone’s reactions helps me believe in myself just a little bit more.

CS: Dude, my hundred-buck-bet is that you go all the way, if you want it, and do the things it takes. What do you want to do in life?

AR: Singing on stage is what I want to do. I’d love to sing for big crowds and to see them enjoy my music.

CS: Then believe. What kind of music resonates with you most?

AR: I listen to a lot of different genres, jazz, rock, r&b, pop, salsa, but for it to really resonate with me, it has to have some soul. I need to be able feel the music and the emotion behind it. The joy, the pain, the anger, the comedy, all these feelings need to come through in the performance. If there’s anything I hope to bring to my music, it’s my soul.

“Singing on stage is what I want to do. I’d love to sing for big crowds and to see them enjoy my music.”

 

CS: Please tell us about a highlight or to from your music path.

AR: One of my favorite moments was getting to sing at the Palace Theater. It’s not every day that I get to sing in a big setting like that. It was also great to sing alongside some of CNY’s top young musicians, and to already know most of them personally.

CS: What has been the best lesson you’ve learned, so far?

AR: With every performance, you have to tell a story. There was a time when I was trying to learn a new song every Sunday for jazz jam, and there were times where I was so worried about learning the notes and lyrics, and figuring out how I was going to play with the melody the second time through, that I wasn’t dedicating enough time to acting the song out, and making sure that every line meant something. I was just singing the song without putting much thought behind how I was singing the song, and that just made those songs fall flat. I think that’s one of the worst mistakes you can make as an artist, to forget to communicate with your audience.

CS: That fact that you understand this already makes me raise my bet to $200. What sort of plans do you have for yourself and your music?

AR: Right now, I want to continue my education, and continue going to open mics and jazz jams so I can keep making connections and possibly get more gigs. I’m currently debating if I want to transfer to a 4 year school, or stick with the music scene here.

CS: Do you have favorite musicians?

AR: Some of my favorites include Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Ella Fitzgerald, Mel Torme, Adele, Ray Charles, Queen, Sara Bareilles, Pentatonix, Celia Cruz, and many more.

CS: Do you have a website or a way to keep track of your music activity?

AR: Currently you can follow me on my personal Facebook page. I’ll always post if I have a special gig coming up, and there are videos of me singing if you want to check it out. I’m also working on a separate Facebook page just for music updates, so keep an eye out for it.

CS: Thank you, Aaron for taking some time for us here at Table Hopping. Nice talking with you.

AR: Thank you, Chuck. It’s been a pleasure. See you around.

Chuck Schiele
Chuck Schiele is an award-winning musician, art director, producer, editorialist, artist, activist, member of SaltCityChill.com and fan of the CNY music scene. To be considered for this column, please write chuck.schiele@gmail.com.