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About Roma

About Roma
Roma is the name of a relatively new music group here in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Mike Stevens and Joseph Alvarez are the two young men who created the group.

Mike writes all of the music for Roma. Although he is not formally trained in music, his talent is such that he is able to create combinations of sounds, notes and chords which combine in a blend that is uniquely gypsy. Mike is of Gypsy descent, born and raised here in the United States. He is originally from Los Angeles – he and his family have moved to Las Cruces.

Joseph is not Gypsy – he is Mexican-American, born at Ft. Benning, Georgia, and a former Army brat. He spent his first three years in Germany and has lived in several New Mexico cities and in El Paso, Texas. He used to borrow his mother’s guitar, and convinced his parents to let him take formal lessons. Both his mother and father made a good choice in allowing the lessons. Joseph is a highly-skilled, artistic musician.

Mike and Joseph met almost two years ago when Joseph was putting up flyers, advertising his availability to give private guitar lessons. Mike asked him to play, was impressed with Joseph’s ability, and they started to play together on a casual basis. Mike is a member of a group based in Los Angeles, and he plays gigs with them when he is visiting L.A. He wanted to have a similar group in Las Cruces. He and Joseph worked on the idea of a group and started actively writing, practicing and increasing their performance repertoire. The name, “Roma” evolved from Mike’s membership as a Gypsy.

Gipsy Kings came to El Paso in February, 2007. Joseph and his younger brother, Travis were able to go to this concert since their father, who is on active duty at Ft Bliss, was able to obtain free tickets through the Morale, Welfare and Recreation office. Mike also went to the concert – in fact, he and Joseph both took their guitars into the concert venue with them ald played along with the Gipsy Kings! (Gipsy Kings is composed solely of ethnic Gypsies. Mike speaks the Gypsy language, and was able to obtain a backstage pass to meet, chat and play music with the group.)

Of more immediate note to Las Crucens, Roma often performs on Saturday nights at the Hotel Encanto (formerly the Las Cruces Hilton Hotel), in the Azul Lounge. They start playing their sets at 8 p.m., finishing their final set at 1 a.m. on Sunday morning. The music is fast-paced and full of surprises.

Because Joseph is a server at a local restaurant, as well as being a member of the New Mexico Army National Guard, the group is not able to play every Saturday night. In addition, when Mike is out of town, the group does not play. On the nights when Joseph is not committed to his server’s job or the National Guard, and when Mike is in town, the group usually plays.

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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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