The globe-trotting angelic strings of Carlos Reyes
What do MC Hammer, Marky Mark, the Pope and now Don Quixote’s have in common? They can all attest to the musical talents of Paraguayan violinist and harpist Carlos Reyes.
A child prodigy—he picked up the violin at age 3 and a half and had his first public performance at 5—Reyes grew up under the influence of his father, Carlos Reyes, Sr., a musical and national hero in Paraguay.
Through the years, the younger Reyes mastered the harp, guitar, bass, mandolin and keyboards, but his father always had one dream for his son: to become a respected classical concert violinist.
“My father started it all with me,” says Reyes, who remembers his house being filled with string instruments as a child. “We played our Paraguayan folk music as a family and did shows together, but that was just a side thing; the concert soloist was what I was being groomed for.”
Though he admits that his father was hard on him at times during his musical education—he “blew a fuse” when he found out Reyes was playing harp behind his back—he learned a great deal from him and his music, weaving a love of Paraguay into his passionate melodies.
After working closely with professional music teachers and being under constant pressure to achieve perfection, Reyes’ hard work paid off when he earned the role of a soloist at the Oakland Symphony at 14 years old. Scared, yet excited to play with the big boys, Reyes combined his Paraguayan heritage plus his mother’s Colombian background to create a signature sound that would eventually earn him the right to perform alongside big names like Willie Nelson, The Doobie Brothers and Cuban flautist “El Tosco.”
“I knew early on that it felt special to see people smile and feel good when they heard me play,” says Reyes. “I feel God gave me a gift with music and the best way to be a steward of this gift is to keep sharing it—give it away and help heal with it.”
Taking a break from touring with Steve Miller, the man behind 1973’s “The Joker,” Reyes will bring his music to Felton on Thursday, Dec. 30 at Don Quixote’s. Co-headlining with acoustic guitarist Peppino D’Agostino, Reyes’ performance will give audience members a sneak peek at his upcoming live album, recorded this past summer and set to be released in January.
While his credits include tracks for artists like MC Hammer and Marky Mark, as well as background music for children’s shows Sesame Street and Villa Alegre, these days, Reyes performs primarily with his own Bay Area-based group, Carlos Reyes and his Electric Symphony. Having lived here since he was a young boy, Reyes finds Northern California to be a music Mecca.
“We have everything here musically,” he says. “Any style you want to hear, [or] play with—[there are] musicians to choose from and an open mind to try different things musically.”
With that frame of mind, Reyes’ music has taken him from the Vatican, to the 2000 World’s Fair in Germany, to the streets of Cuba, to the deathbed of a 101-year-old world-class pianist—who, after Reyes finished playing the harp, said, “Thank you son, now I can die in peace.”
Having had a whirlwind of a career so far, Reyes’ multi-cultural experiences on tour have made him the man he is today: optimistic about music’s power to unite and change the world. “Music brings down borders and fences,” says Reyes. “It’s a hard road but a beautiful journey.”
Carlos Reyes will perform with Peppino D’Agostino 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 30, at Don Quixote’s, 6275 Highway 9, Felton. Tickets are $15. For more information, call 603-2294.