Performer fondly recalls passion nurtured by family, local educators


ROME — Growing up in a huge Latinx family with a big influence from music teachers he grew up with in middle school and Rome Free Academy, Esteban Jino Vazquez enjoys success in his home of Ohio today as a professional musician and singer.

Vazquez grew up in Rome, residing at the former Wright Park Manor through grade school, and later attending Strough Middle School and RFA.

When it comes to music, it has always been a big part of Vazquez's life. Remembering parties and special family get-togethers as a kid, "Our huge Latinx family would get together, hang out, eat and always have some sort of music on — whether it was the radio going or my uncles getting some congas and playing along with whatever Marc Anthony song my grandmother, Maria, dictated to be played," he recalled fondly.

That passion for music continued to develop throughout middle and high school.

"Mary Morrisroe, Joanne Gould, and Twyla Edwards were instrumental in who I am as a musician/performer," said Vazquez, adding that while attending Strough, he enjoyed his first musical and All-County Music Festival experiences.

Throughout high school, Vazquez said he had the "pleasure and honor" of having Linda Slavin as his freshman choir teacher, with Mary Kay Madonia teaching his music class.

"The teacher, however, who has had the biggest impact on me, is Valerie Wood (V-Dubb). She was my favorite instructor," he said. "The things I learned as a musician from her I still remember and apply to this day, which was even solidified by those teachers before her. You are all invaluable to me."

After high school, Vazquez was part of the first few RFA Alumni Cabarets, which when possible, he took the trip back home for from Ohio. Since moving to Athens in 2011, Vazquez has been a part of several projects there — including music, singing and acting.

"I've been a part of shows with multiple theatre companies, choirs, and events in our city," Vazquez explained. "I've lead and participated in cabarets around town. Over the fall, I also joined the board for an organization called OVST (Ohio Valley Summer Theater), whose goal is to continue and nurture the beauty of how theatre connects people to each other, the community they live in, and to be supportive of people no matter their background."

He said, "We have a university in town which has a thriving music college, too (Ohio University), where I've met amazing people and instructors also, and have had the privilege of calling some of those people my best friends."

Vazquez has also been part of Athens' SATB (Soprano Alto Tenor Bass) for the past 10 years, known as "A new kind of choir."

"We would put on themed concerts based on the not-for-profit organization we were raising funds for at the time," he explained. "For example, food pantry was songs about food; library was books; observatory was all about space — we have done a Madrigal dinner and even a Gilbert & Sullivan piece for our local branch of CASA/GAL (Court Appointed Special Advocate/Guardian Ad Litem)."

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to many of Vazquez's shows, just as it closed the curtain on stages across the world. But now that things are "slowly getting back to normal," Vazquez's production of "Sister Act" is finally making its way to the stage after a 750-plus day delay.

"This summer, OVST is putting together a theatre youth camp along with their production of 'Seussical Jr.,' which will be an amazing show," said the performer. "My son and myself will also be in the cast of ‘Shrek' as OVST's main stage production this July."

Vazquez said he owes his passion and success in music, and as a performer, to his roots.

"I cannot comprehend or dictate to you all, how amazing my music education from Rome City Schools was. It has — not an exaggeration — made me more knowledgeable than some university students I've run into," he said. "Rome's music history is one of the best I've ever seen and experienced. I'm beyond thankful for how this city has shaped me into the musician I am today."


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