>>> What 2008 is set to bring...
January 2, 2008
Happy New Year, everyone!
I should never make promises I can't keep, and I know I promised a major announcement on December 1, 2007, but things got really crazy for me (as they usually do) so I decided to go ahead and wait to post that announcement until the beginning of the new year... and well, the new year is here!
As many of you know, last fall, I was offered the part of the Cowardly Lion in an Atlanta-based production of The Wiz. I accepted the part, but after much contemplation on my career goals and the direction of my music, as well as some realizations about the pay that was offered, I changed my mind and passed it on to a wonderful dance instructor and singer out of Miami. Congratulations, Ro! Meeting you at the Houston auditions was a blast.
Okay, so... I got together with the core band this weekend - Ryan Redfern on bass and newcomers Christopher Cribb on keyboards and Reagan Redfern on drums - to work on three brand new instrumental songs. The staff at Unity Church of the Hills was gracious enough to let us use their worship hall to practice.
I am completely astounded... what we got done on Saturday at rehearsal far exceeded my expectations. I've been composing these three songs for just under a year now and they came out just the way I wanted them to, if not better! Each one is vastly different from the other two - but I feel such a sense of overwhelming peace and "SYNERGY" when we play them as a group. I'm talking serious energy, passion, and grooves here.
I'm not giving away any secrets, but I'm telling you - if things progress the way they are now, you all are in for a REAL treat!
Christopher is my new collaborator as far as putting together the core of some of the new songs goes, and he and I have put together a very intimate, quiet arrangement of a beautiful new lyrical ballad that I've been writing - it's called "Behind These Walls".
One more piece of news... the re-release of "FOREVER RED" is almost upon us, and will be completely remastered for an even more beautiful sonic experience - I was just listening to it the other day and it brought back so many fond memories. More news will be posted soon about the "FOREVER RED" re-release as it comes.
Thanks for all of your love, support, and friendship.
>>> To All My Friends and Fans
January 31, 2008
Hello to all my friends and fans! I am writing to you with a newly-energized spirit, along with new eyes, fresh ears, and open arms, as I bring some big news to you. The next chapter of my journey as a violinist, singer, and composer is about to begin!
For the past several weeks since the conclusion of my Winter 2007 Concert Series with my band, I have been putting the finishing touches on several brand-new compositions that have been in the works for months, while also taking some time out to spend time with my family and closest friends. I've also been "getting to know myself" all over again through the pages of Joel Osteen's latest book, "Become a Better You - 7 Keys to Improving Your Life Every Day".
This book has been changing my life since I opened it a couple of weeks ago and I feel that I am on track to new spiritual, psychological, emotional, and best of all MUSICAL horizons. It's been helping me to take a look inward, breaking old patterns, getting me into more positive ways of thinking, feeling, and living, and overall just doing a full-on internal makeover on me!
I know it has been a while since we have performed, but I assure you that the wait is almost over. I have brought some amazing new talent into my live band in order to bring the new songs (which I mentioned before) to life in concert. I am confident in saying that this music is some of my best work ever, and hearing it come to life in the recent rehearsals with the band is an amazingly cathartic and spiritually-uplifting experience.
It has been a long while - almost three years - since this I have written this much music in such a short period of time - probably since around the time the original "FOREVER RED" album was being produced and recorded - and I promise you that if you like what you've heard from my first two albums, you haven't seen or heard anything yet!
In addition to the usual fare of instrumental rock anthems, melody-driven dance themes, world beats, and ambient, contemporary classical ballads, you're going to hear a lot more singing this time around. I've been writing on my own, and I'm also writing lyrics with internationally-renowned dance music artist and songwriter Jacinta... trust me, you are all in for a real treat!
Our Spring 2008 Concert Series is set to kick off at Seattle's Best Coffee on Friday, February 22, 2008 at 8:00 PM with an amazing, energetic, passionate, and powerful setlist of music consisting of all-new songs, as well as some old favorites. Shortly thereafter, I will be posting preview tracks of some of the new songs on this MySpace as a precursor to the arrival of my third, as-yet-untitled album. Can you tell I'm excited? I hope you're just as excited as we are. This is going to be a fast, thrilling ride, so buckle your seatbelts!
Until next blog,
>>> Thank You to All of You!
March 29, 2008
Dear friends and fans,
I have never been so touched as I am now, having recently received so many uplifting, supportive, and wonderful emails, comments, and letters from all of you. When I started writing music in 2000 with my first piece, "Dawn" (which is on both "FOREVER RED" and "EXPERIENCE"), I never thought that it would touch the lives of people all across the globe. I must share with you that God and my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, have put a message, a passion, and a dream inside me which I have chosen to channel through the strings of my violin. Whether these notes come from people who attend every concert or someone in another country, I want to let you all know that I do get these messages and that I appreciate them so very much. It is a blessing and truly fills my spirit with love and joy. It means a lot and itís the perfect way to start my day as I prepare to head to soundcheck for the first concert of my Spring 2008 Concert Tour! There are a lot of changes and big things happening and so itís great to have that love coming from all over, and trust me, Iím sending it back to all of you through my heart, my soul, my thoughts, and my strings. Here are some recent letters that I just had to share... it really means a lot to me. Keep in mind - Iím not posting this blog to brag. Iím doing it because even when times are tough for me, I come online and see these messages and comments that really serve to brighten my day, so this is me giving back. Thank you... all of you.
Dear friend, Omar, How amazing you are, you give a breathe of fresh air with every word and gesture! A blissful laughing heart shared because you care, a sound that graciously flows through the air to reveal an awesome nature, that reveal your desires to give, receive, and give again! Through lifeís mountain highs - ocean lows - exciting times, and hurting wows, there is a sound, "your sound, an amazing at every level, kind of sound!" A sound that whispers through the air, ... you care! ... Because of you, and what you give, through your sound, your story, your spirit, there is strength and wisdom given to the wounded, joy and compassion for healing and growth, friendship that creates a enjoyed journey to experience more. Today, among the many wonderful people we share life with, you, are an awesome gift, that makes this day, even greater... Thank you, for being you, a great gift to us all! :-)
You are an extremely unique talent and your authentic self is there for the world to see. Thatís part of what makes you so special. Itís obvious to see that music is your passion. We feel fortunate to be able to see you perform; and you bring us great joy. You are a true gift!
Your fans enjoy your music Omar cause its special, different and unique...Keep up the good work my brother.... Create a great day...
Hello Omar, I just Have To Tell You How Beautiful Your Violin Sounds.
My Dad Played The Violin And Also His Brother Played Double noted,
And It WAs Beautiful Like Many Violins Together.
They Are Both dead Now But You Are Here and I Listen To You And Do So Enjoy Your Music.
Thanks For Being My Friend And For Filling My Days With Beautiful Music
You Are A Gift From God, A Talent Very Fiew Ever Have.
Hugs And All My Love.
Hi Omar, Your music is so wonderful and consuming. Up until now I have not listened to a violinist perform a whole piece but you...you have mesmerized me at best. Keep it up.
Again, thanks to all of you. With love through life and music, Omar
>>> TONIGHT I'm Opening for Benatar in San Antonio! OMG!!!
May 18, 2008
Okay, so at the dress rehearsal at Music Lab in South Austin yesterday afternoon, it finally hit me... tonight, the band and I are opening for 80's rock icon Pat Benatar and her husband and longtime guitarist, producer, co-writer, and multi-instrumentalist Neil Giraldo. OH EM GEEEEEEE! Love is a Battlefield, baby! I'm glad my love life has been such a battlefield, otherwise God wouldn't have put some amazing songs in my heart and soul for me to create and none of this would have ever happened!
The five months leading up to this have been a grueling process of learning a few new songs, tightening up some old ones, and rehearsing some newcomers to my band - drummer Reagan Redfern, keyboardist Christopher Cribb, guitarist/saxophonist Greg Williams, and backing vocalist Rachel Keagy. My longtime band members, bassist Ryan Redfern and backing vocalist Kelley Glover, and I are very excited to have this new team in place as the energy during rehearsals has been THROUGH THE ROOF. The enthusiasm and excitement of this group is so thick, you can barely cut it with a knife. (Does anyone have a chainsaw!?!?) I can only imagine what it will be like at tonight's concert.
To all of you who have sent your prayers, thoughts, and comments of support, love, and encouragement - you know who you are - thank you. My friend Dana said this will be a "night never to be forgotten." The only reason I've gotten here is because of my amazingly talented band, my dedicated staff, the superb professionalism of my agent, fans like you, and most of all, my Lord and Savior. I can't wait to tell you all how the show goes!
With love through life and music,
>>> The Incredible Fainting Violinist
October 6, 2008
Lately I've been working full-time with my own band and we've had a lot of amazing, great shows, but on occasion I play with a few other groups including a really successful Latin band and a gospel/inspirational artist. It just keeps things fun and interesting, and I enjoy maintaining relationships with these other bands because they were the ones who gave me the opportunities to shine long before my own original project came into being.
Tonight, I've been rethinking the extent of my commitment and relationship with one of these groups - not because of any personal drama with them. In the past, things haven't always been easy, as working dynamics between myself and some the musicians in this group has made it difficult for me to maintain a full-time position, but I have learned a LOT from them (professionally, musically, and personally) and one of my life's mentors is the band leader.
As I was setting up my gear to start the show with the guys, I paused and thought I was feeling a little funny, but figured that I had been drinking enough water and had eaten a good breakfast so there really wasn't anything to worry about. Boy, was I ever wrong.
About twenty or so minutes into the gig, I think my irritation and stress combined with how I was feeling just didn't make for good bedfellows. I had taken one of the chairs and was sitting down, about to do a solo, when the next thing I knew I was catching my violin from falling out of my hands. Honestly, I was a little embarassed, because I looked at my bandmates and they were still playing like clockwork, so I thought I was just being clumsy, but then it happened again and this time I was catching myself from falling!
After about ten minutes of running his procedures and checking my pulse, the EMT told me that it was best that if I was feeling faint and dizzy, to not even continue the gig and to just sit it out. I kind of laughed because that wasn't an option for my band leader. His attitude is that if you can walk, talk, and breathe, you can do the gig. However, the EMT strongly encouraged me not to take the chances, but also not to drive.
I guess my bandleader didn't realize the gravity of things because he just thought I was overreacting and that I needed to grin and bear it since he and his bandmates have been doing outdoor gigs in the heat for years and years. At that point, when he said that, I was just emotionally and physically done so I followed the EMT's advice and went inside and just isolated myself with a glass of water and a cold compress to my head and neck. As the gig went on, I would occasionally play the violin from off to the side since I'm wireless, but I know how silly it looked and trust me, I felt even more stupid doing it. I did notice the EMT going to talk to my band leader during the set break, and after that, the band leader chilled out and let up on me a little bit although he made it known how he could have gotten someone else if he knew that this was going to happen.
To anyone reading this, whether they are a fan, a friend, a family member, or a fellow musician - I would never put any of my own musicians through this. The Central Texas heat is brutal. As someone who is in charge of his own business and revenue, I'm also in charge of making sure that the people who work for me are safe and in good health, and it's my duty to make sure that they are not put in any dangerous situations.
I only ended up playing five or six songs that afternoon, and I don't feel bad about it. By the end of the gig, I'd had a good time just mingling with people but I was embarassed about nearly causing a commotion, so I tried to be jovial about it and just smile, but I think people could tell how scared I was.
>>> My REAL Story... From There to Here
October 28, 2008
A lot of you out there may not know this, but I actually got my start on the viola. I dabbled in violin here and there throughout elementary and middle school but I had such long fingers and arms as an awkward preteen that my instructors thought it best for me to stay on viola. I wear glasses because of my blurred vision, and so my sightreading was not great, and to add to that, my intonation was terrible (due to the instrument's size and the discomfort it caused me) and I hated practicing as a result.
To add to that, there were times where I wanted to quit playing all through high school, because my peers in the orchestra were not the kindest people. (You know how kids and teens can be!) What kept me playing was the fact that I loved it, and I was also in my church orchestra and they were extremely warm and supportive. Even my friends in my church youth group encouraged me to keep on playing.
That being said, I played both violin and viola through my lessons in high school, and my private teacher noticed that I was better on violin, but my high school's viola section was so small (it went from 4 players to 2 players during my senior year) that my orchestra teacher preferred that I play viola for the concerts. By that time I think I had grown into my body, and that viola was really large and uncomfortable, which I think affected my playing. Even my senior year solo recital wasn't as good as I thought it should be.
All of these factors led me to a disappointing situation when I started college - I had been the first chair violist in high school, and now I was the third chair in my university's symphony orchestra. I felt brushed aside and inadequate. They didn't view my private teacher's recommendation for me to move to violin as legit because I didn't have enough experience actually playing the violin during concerts.
It felt so political. It really was, and I got burned out. I wasn't all that interested in classical music by that point because by the time I was in college, I had already seen Yanni and John Tesh concerts and Irish-dance shows Riverdance and Lord of the Dance on PBS during the summer, and I knew that there was something else out there for me because those productions prominently featured violinists such as Karen Briggs, Charlie Bisharat, Lorenza Ponce, and Eileen Ivers - all of whom have become my friends and mentors in some way since my college days. Some friends also turned me on to the jazz violin pioneer, Jean-Luc Ponty.
What I'm getting at is that these people were improvising all over the place in different genres of music, such as world, Latin, rock, jazz, and Celtic, and I had also seen Vanessa-Mae (who is my age!) doing her thing with dance and pop-classical, so I too began improvising in my own time, outside of classes.
I was blessed to come across several great and very different opportunities after making the decision to leave college and pursue my dream of becoming a full-time professional musician. Since that point, it's not always been easy, but I've been blessed by God with many musical opportunities that have helped me get to where I am now - and this is only the beginning. From touring with a large internationally-based rock orchestra to playing in salsa clubs with a Latin-jazz band, and from writing my first songs like "Dawn" and "Resurrection" and releasing the "Forever Red" CD in 2005 to being on my way to releasing an album of all-new original music next year, I know that there is another force at work here.
There was a reason for everything that happened during my younger years. Although I'm far from blind and can drive, type, walk, and see perfectly with my glasses, my vision problems helped me to develop the ear and sound that I have, and I have not read sheet music in ten years as a result. That, in and of itself, is a gift, because I believe and trust that there's more music in my heart and soul, waiting to come out onto my violin and through my voice, than could ever be put on paper.
That being said, let it be known and understood I am not the star of my life or my concerts. I know it comes across that way, but it's only because I love life, I love music, and I love performing. Although my onstage persona may seem pompous and dominant, I am truly humble because I am a born-again Christian. Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior, He is the star of my life, and with Him, all things are possible. I have always known this and believed in Him, but my actions, my words, and my life have not always been a testimony of that.
As a result of my re-dedication of my life to Him, my music is headed in a new direction, filled with light and love and hope. This will be reflected in my next album, which I hope to release by Summer or Fall 2009. I will continue to perform my music and minister to concert audiences and church congregations, who have always been so supportive of my journey. However, I will also begin to minister through the music of Jason and deMarco, a devoted, loving, and commited couple whose star in Christ and in music is rising, as they have asked me to be a part of their live worship band for several occasions throughout the fall and next year.
If I've offended anyone, please know that I do not do this to offend, because I am not here to force my beliefs on anyone - I'm only here to share my story to anyone who will listen or who also believes. That being said, know that I am here and that my music is what it is, not because of me, but because of something inside me and around us all that I believe is greater than all of us.
I love you all, just as much as I love the Lord and the music that he has put in my soul. Thank you for being my friends.
>>> Omar's Holiday Concert at Bethany United Methodist Church
December 2, 2008
I just want to say that I'm so blessed to have the support of not only my family and my amazing band, but also that of friends and fans like all of you. I know that the current economic climate has a lot of people holding on tight to their finances, but the band and I would be really happy to see you all at the concert being held this coming Saturday (December 6, 2008) at Bethany United Methodist Church in Northwest Austin. It's going to be a special event, not only because of "the most wonderful time of the year", but because it's the final performance in our current "Sound, Energy, and Passion" 2008 Concert Series.
God has touched my heart with a message since the creation of my first song, "Dawn", back in 2000, and even though it took me a little while for me to come "Full Circle" (back into my faith) and realize that message, I'm aware (more than ever) of all of my own personal, spiritual, and musical "Reasons for Living". I've been told by many of you over the past few years that my music has touched and inspired you through life's highs and lows. As a born-again Christian, that warms my heart and lets me know that He is doing a powerful work in my life. This isn't about religion or going to church, even though a lot of my concerts take place in churches. This is about bringing people together and showing them what life is really about, especially during such trying times.
This year has been marked with a few amazing milestones, such as opening for Pat Benatar in May and performing at San Antonio's famed Arneson River Theatre (featured in "Miss Congeniality" starring Sandra Bullock). I was also happy to re-release the "FOREVER RED" and "EXPERIENCE" albums together as "FOREVER RED: DELUXE EDITION". Since we will begin rehearsing our new show with a lot of new material and a few new musicians and singers starting in January, the first public performances of 2009 are not set to take place until March or April at the earliest, so now is the time to get your "Omar fix" as some of our fans have called it!
The concert will start at 8:00 P.M. with me on acoustic violin accompanied by pianist and guitarist Nic Whitworth, who is the leader of Bethany's "Messengers of Grace" worship group. We will perform a selection of holiday favorites before the full band and my red Zeta Jazz electric violin take the stage at 8:30 P.M. to perform songs from "FOREVER RED: DELUXE EDITION" as well as new music from my upcoming album of high-powered instrumentals and inspirational vocal rockers and ballads.