Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, Daniel Chávez ’16 journeyed with his family as a toddler to the US, making Coos Bay, OR, home. While his original motivation to pick up the saxophone may have been to impress his crush, Daniel was quickly captivated by learning to create music and a life-long passion began. During his high school years at Marshfield HS, He showed promise as a musician early on and earned a position playing clarinet with the Oregon Coast Lab Band, as their youngest member. His time with this experimental band for young artists provided him his first opportunities to interact with seasoned musicians and perform often in professional settings.
After high school, Daniel came to SOU for a unique reason. “I went to SOU blindly for love and I didn’t know the slightest thing about their music department,” he said. Upon arriving on campus, he nearly missed the scheduled auditions for the music department and ended up performing an audition for Professor Jeff Richmond. He felt unprepared but must have auditioned well because he was accepted and dove into the experience of being a student in SOU’s close-knit music department. Many opportunities became available to Daniel because of his talent, hard work and a caring network of professors like Jeff Richmond and Rhett Bender. “Both professors were passionate about music but were also excellent teachers who kept me on track academically,” he added. Daniel’s first experience playing before a crowd as a student was in a sold-out Music Recital Hall for the jazz band. His first large crowd performance was with the Raider Band for SOU football during their national championship season in 2014. “Crowd applause is great and performing in those two venues was definitely a highlight for a young musician.”
After graduating June of 2016 with his bachelor of arts in music, Daniel chose to spend the summer in Ashland playing three to five gigs weekly at local venues while also mentoring younger students. At the recommendation of a colleague, he applied for the role of musician on a cruise ship and after completing an audition via Skype, he was offered the job. A week later he was navigating the globe with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, collaborating with musicians from throughout the world. He loved the camaraderie of performing with other artists on the high seas with the bonus of adding stamps to his passport in Italy, Cuba, Iceland, and Ireland, among others.
After two and a half years at sea, Daniel settled in Los Angeles for a few months, connecting with musicians in the arts scene but moved to Chicago in 2019 to pursue opportunities in the windy city. His performing experiences in Chicago in a single month can range from traditional Banda music to Indie Rock and rap but he admits that jazz will always be his love. In Chicago, he reflected on the support he’d had in the past and recognized the need for active professional musicians like himself to become integrated into communities as educators and mentors. A chance meeting at a downtown bus stop and ensuing discussion about Salsa with his fellow commuter, led to a partnership and nine months later, the founding of the Pilsen Center for Cultural & Contemporary Arts. Daniel and his partner Katrise Kalugin, established the non-profit organization with the mission of providing accessibility to the arts for all youth in the city regardless of socioeconomic background, prior experience or knowledge base. “Providing underserved youth with opportunities to perform in music and dance, when they otherwise might not have been able to, is incredibly fulfilling and I look forward to working with them every day to help build the arts in our community,” Daniel affirmed.
To learn more: Pilsen Center for Cultural & Contemporary Arts