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.