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Conversations with Ignacio Guillen Calderon

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ignacio Guillen Calderon.

Ignacio, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
As the firstborn of Mexican immigrants, it was instilled in me that my parents’ sacrifices had to be honored through my success. Growing up an immigrant in a frugal, modest living home was the most beautiful upbringing I could ever ask for. Although we were living paycheck to paycheck, I always had everything I needed; food, a roof over my head, love, parents, and music. Music has been part of my life since birth. My father has been a musician since he was 14. He now is 43 and is still playing because he loves it. He plays a big role in why I got to where I am today. We both practice clarinet together at times and play duets of Mexican traditional rancho songs. I began showing signs of interest when I was only three years old. At three, I would grab my mom’s pots, turn them over to the flat side, and drum along with the music my mom would listen to. Of course, it was Banda él Recodo, Joan Sebastian, Mana, and many more. Then when I was about six, I started to tell my dad to teach me a clarinet. I knew he could play because he would sometimes pull it out of the case and play. Also, he was in a Banda, a Mexican band that plays traditional Mexican music about life, stories, love, and other topics too like drugs, cartels…, and I would attend his gigs because I loved the atmosphere and THE MUSIC. At first, he was very skeptical. When I would ask for him to teach me, tell me things like “you’re too young”, “you’re never going to learn.” “you’re never going to be good” and Although this all hurt very much, my desire to learn never left and he saw that because he still would teach me whatever he could.

At seven, I began to get lessons for clarinet from a very respected musician in the Los Angeles Area named Jaime Negrete, aka Woody. Negrete is a talented multi-instrumentalist that in 2007 he began his very own banda school academy. This project was called “Banda Nueva Generacion” and it was a group of kids ages 3 – 17 learning how to read music and play an instrument. For the next four years (2007 – 2011) my schedule consisted of Mondays, accordion lesson. Tuesdays and Thursdays, Banda lessons with woody (where I would practice clarinet also), Wednesdays and Fridays band class in elementary school where I would practice trumpet. Saturdays, I would have an accordion lesson and gig sometimes in the nights. Yes, at night. I began gigging at the age of 9 on the weekends and was very committed to it. I was missing family parties, important events to be working on my craft from a very young age. Saturdays I was gigging and every since my weekends are my workdays. I was always occupied with music. When I wasn’t gigging or playing music, I was drawing and playing video games. I was not a “normal” kid I would say. I always enjoyed being around older people because I would love to observe and listen. When I was with kids, I always felt out of place because I felt like nobody would understand me or my life. Talking to older people was always more comfortable because I felt like they would see something in me and cared to hear anything I had to say. My dad would always bring me around with him so I always got to see many perspectives on life. Along with these trips, older musicians would give me “Consejos”, tips about life like how I should always be humble, how I should never forget where I came from and many more life lessons that I still remember today. Hearing all of these things did get pretty repetitive but they were effective. I only say it felt repetitive because I was a kid. You have to remember the way a kid thinks to understand where I am coming from.

As I was getting older, I started getting better and realizing that I had an ability many musicians don’t ever achieve and that is absolute pitch or perfect pitch. I found out I had it by accident. I was playing Call of duty black ops one day, 2011, with my good friend Marlon Alvarez and he, was playing his trumpet through the mic. Hearing him playing inspired me to do the same so I got my clarinet and did the same. Marlon Starts to play musical phrases and I start to play them back. This goes on for a bit and Alvarez says, “I think you have perfect pitch. How are you able to play everything I play, back to me and correctly if I’m not telling you what I’m playing?” Alvarez. I forgot to mention that Marlon was about to graduate high school and was also a friend because we were in Banda Nueva Generation together. After Elementary school, I continued my pursuit of music at Robert Frost Middle School. I joined the music program under the direction of Juan Rodríguez and was part of the Mariachi, Jazzband, and Wind Ensemble for the next three years of my life (2011-2014) playing trumpet in all of these groups. During this time, I was also playing clarinet outside of school in banda. In 2011, I left Banda Nueva Generation and started freelancing on the weekends with my dad playing with different bands and musicians all across the Los Angeles Area. In 2013, I joined La Arrazadora Banda él Refugio. La Arrazadora, which was a more known and respected banda in Los Angeles, I got to experience playing in well-known venues in the United States, work with famous Mexican artists like Gerardo Ortiz, Pancho Barraza, Luis Coronel, Regulo Caro, Ulices Chaidez, Noel Torres, and Grupo Escolta. I got to experience being on tour, and best of all working with amazing musicians.

In 2012, I was 12 years old, I played at the NOKIA THEATRE, now Microsoft, with Gerardo Ortiz and La Arrazadora. We even got to open the show, it was epic. My mom, dad, brother, and uncle went to go watch me and support me because it was one of my biggest accomplishments yet. I was the one that was always looking for musical opportunities and driving me to my gigs and rehearsals. He has always been there. I want to make that clear. He set it up so that I could be scouted by La Arrazadora and progress to a new level with more talent. With Arrrazadora I also got to play in Tijuana 2016 with Regulo Caro. I got to play in Las Vegas and Arizona with Gerardo Ortiz 2014. I got to travel to Mexico with La Arrazadora in 2018 which was probably my favorite memory (along with playing at the Microsoft with Ortiz in 2012 (12 years old)) because we got flown out with all expenses paid to go play at the pueblo of La Concepción Jalisco, Mexico. We played at their Pueblo’s festivities for the town and for their Virgin, “Inmaculada Concepción de la Virgin Maria”. We had a 2-hour show and we got the whole “famous treatment” people asking for pictures, shout-outs, and so much praise. It was heartwarming. The locals treated us so nice. I will always remember this experience. With Arrazadora, I matured and learned who I wanted to be. What I loved about this band was that everyone had a life they loved, you know work, kids, stable income and a bright future in establishing themselves for earlier retirement through investing and managing their money correctly. I was in La Arrazadora from 2013 to the beginning of 2020.

Throughout these seven years, I went through so much more in my scholastic musical side/life too. I was going to musical competitions and music festivals to perform and compete. In high school, I was attending the LAUSD All-City Jazz Band and Marching band. I got to perform at the Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl in 2018. I marched in the rose parade three years in a row with the LAUSD All-City Marching Band. Those same three years, I played at the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Bandfest with the marching band. I played in the LAUSD All-City Combo. Performed two times at the Musician Institute in Hollywood, Ca. the first year with John F. Kennedy High School’s Jazz combo. The next year with JFKHS Jazz Combo and All-City A Jazzband with guest jazz pianist Gerald Clayton. I performed at the 23rd Annual Central Avenue Jazz Festival in Los Angeles with All city Jazz Band and Jazz Combo. Performed at the LA Rams New Year’s Eve game on December 31st, 2017 (my 18th birthday too) during their halftime. I must remind you that all of this was done on trumpet. This was my trumpet life, while everything I did out of school was my clarinet life. All this leads us up to when I get accepted to the CSUN Music Program where I studied for one year and then leave in 2019. During my time there, I was in the CSUN B Jazzband playing 4th trumpet and in the Studio Ensemble and Concert band. I have no complaints about the program or school. I loved and enjoyed being in these groups but I have my reasons for leaving. You can find them in a YouTube video I made. I do plan on returning to school in the future because I want to continue learning and most of all, playing all the old genres of music I used to play like classical music and jazz with other musicians.

Ever since I left, I told myself I would focus only on clarinet because it was what I loved more. I have always been more advanced in clarinet and I wanted to expand my skills with it. And I have. Ever since I focused on clarinet and ever since I began to post videos of myself playing, I have met more people and received so much more work as an individual. I now get work to go record in small productions for artists. I have participated in Various Live Video recordings for Mexican Artist like Fuerza Regida, Los Pistones, él Yaki, Martin Castillo, and Legado 7. The biggest accomplishment last year, 2020, was Recording a clarinet on Fuerza Regida’s “Pisteando Con La Regina (Vol. 3)” Album. I got to participate in the recording session where we recorded ten songs in one day. The musicians invited that day were the best in Los Angeles and together, we made the arrangements on the spot and recorded them there. It was a full day of production but definitely worth the effort. I left Arrazadora at the beginning of the year. I left because a new opportunity presented itself and I did not want to let it slide by. I was invited to join what is the most popular band in Los Angeles right now, Banda La Fantastica. Here I am the section leader and I have the opportunity to record our Productions in the Studio! I am beyond grateful for this opportunity because it has already brought in so much value to me. Here I have been able to experience the tour life on a bigger but still smaller scale (no Drake type of tour life) I have been to Chicago twice with them, Dallas once, reno once, Florida once, and we have some exciting shows in other states coming up in the near future. In banda la fantastica, I am the youngest, 21. All the members are talented individuals with so much drive and ambition for success. 

Our Plan is to bring the awareness and sound of Mexican bands all across the world. There are other bands that have done this, for example, Banda él Recodo, Banda MS, Banda La Arrolladora, these are all well-known and respected bands from Mexico with a lot of seniorities, experience, history, and status. They already have a name for themselves. On the other hand we, banda la fantastic, are mainly 1st generation Americans with the dream of showing the world that music is universal. And although we are not Mexican natives, we present Mexican music to the world. Mexico is still a part of us. As of now, I plan to continue my career in music by helping musicians through my Youtube channel by providing tutorials, lessons, and much more. I plan on continuing to practice and build a daily routine on clarinet. I plan to learn more about music theory and I want to write, arrange and make more music. Some of my own music as well. My ultimate goal is to be a studio musician in Hollywood. I want to be recording for films, movies, jingles, and for famous bands and artists in ALL genres of music. I want to be a respected musician all over the world. Now time to get back to practice.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
I’ve missed family parties, went through a breakup, not hanging out with friends since I was busy always with music. I’ve always been hard on myself and my playing. My dad would never say “you’re good” “good job” or any of that. He was always there for me but he just wasn’t very good at expressing his feelings. I know he is proud of me but the younger me always wished he would say I was good. But then, when he would say it, it never felt like it made it better for me so I just learned to trust myself more. No one is going to save you but yourself.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I am a musician. I can play trumpet, clarinet, and accordion. I am learning piano, tuba, and saxophone. I have played more than 500 shows (15neras, birthday parties, weddings, events, etc.) I am setting myself to become a woodwind specialist, someone who has studied flute, saxophones, and clarinet. I am known for being a prodigy on the clarinet and for having perfect pitch. What sets me apart from others is that I am well known in the industry I am in. People know I am good at my job and that I have a unique perspective on life. I share my thoughts on my social media and in YouTube videos I make. I enjoy sharing my small amount of wisdom and knowledge with everyone. I don’t think I am better than anyone. I am only worried about competing with myself and pushing my limits. I am respectful and open-minded to new concepts and ideas. I am also known for making YouTube tutorials for clarinetists. I have 1680 subscribers on my Ignacio Clarinete YouTube channel. On Ignacio Clarinete, I am building a community of clarinetists that help each other become successful musicians. I teach people the things I know for free. Most of my audience is in Mexico which is so awesome. People comment very nice things on my videos and request song tutorials and in my free time, I record them.

I also have been building a following on TikTok with my musical skills. As of now, I have 43.2k followers and a couple of viral videos of me playing the clarinet. The most famous? Me playing the song “Tequila” on the clarinet. The audience loved it and it wasn’t until a week after posting it that I began to gain recognition. The only reason I even made this video was that someone from my community asked me to play it. If it weren’t for that one supporter and my execution, I don’t think I would have the following I have today. I am very grateful for that. My goal is to bring a positive influence through my social media. Being on social media gives me the chance to connect and meet people all over the world. I’ve received more than 25 messages from different individuals saying that they watch me from Oaxaca, Mexico, Jalisco, Mexico, Sinaloa, Mexico, and many other places. These people send me direct messages through Facebook and Instagram so it does not include my YouTube comment section. But I am so humbled to know that there are people who “want to be as good as me”.

Can you talk to us a bit about the role of luck?
I believe that if you have faith in anything you do, luck presents its self. I don’t think anything I’ve done has been because of luck. I believe that the amount of time and dedication I have put into my craft talks for me.

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