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Roma

Roma
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Roma is a guitar group composed of Michael Stevens, 19, and Joseph Alvarez, 23. The musical genre is gypsy (fusion, jazz), flamenco and rumbas, which is not the typical music played here in Las Cruces.

Alvarez has been playing guitar for over seven years, when he started playing his mother’s guitar and asked for formal lessons. He studied for several years under Joseph Mancilla, a local instructor and musician. Alvarez has also played trumpet and was a member of Mariachi Espuelas de Plata (one of the original group members).

Stevens has been playing guitar since he was eleven years old. He has never received formal instruction, but taught himself how to play.

Alvarez and Stevens met two years ago when Alvarez was posting signs around Las Cruces, advertising guitar lessons. He played for Stevens and the two have since become fast friends, jamming and composing new music.

Roma has recorded several demo CDs, most of which contain Stevens’ original compositions. In addition, the young men had a regular gig at the Azul Lounge in the Hotel Encanto, playing every Saturday night from late evening until very early in the morning. Roma had developed quite a following, with many listeners becoming fans.

Roma’s music is fast, spirited and very upbeat. Stevens plays lead while Alvarez plays rhythm. Stevens adds the vocals. When Stevens is playing, his fingers move quickly up and down the neck of his guitar, sometimes caressing the strings, and sometimes creating a faster rhythm. At times, his guitar playing is more like playing the piano because of how he is able to coax a note out of individual strings. Alvarez’ rhythm is strong and easy to follow. He will often echo Stevens in his playing. Indeed, when these two young men play, it is obvious they have developed a knack of communicating without words. All it takes is a raised brow from one to the other; when this happens, the two guitarists take their very individual music down unexpected paths.

Unfortunately, the group is no longer playing at the Azul Lounge — Stevens was in Los Angeles, working on two opportunities he had to make his music his career and livelihood.

The good news is that he has come back, and Roma is back to practicing, jamming and searching for another venue in Las Cruces, where these two talented young men can play their music for those of us who enjoy something out of the ordinary.

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