By Lyndsie Kiebert
Growing up in Ventura, Calif., Berto Boyd remembers being surrounded by creative and talented people. He also recalls how drugs and gangs were becoming more prominent.
“I was always drawn to the heaviest characters, the heaviest scenes. The guys who surfed the biggest waves or the fearless skateboarders, but that lifestyle comes with a really big price tag,” Boyd says in a YouTube video chronicling his early life. “So instead of following that herd, I locked myself in my room for safety and practiced classical guitar 14 hours a day.”
After his guitar teacher noticed Boyd had a knack for improvisation, he suggested the budding musician pursue flamenco. The first time he encountered the genre, Boyd said he was hooked.
“It was so intense, so heavy,” Boyd said. “I remember the hair standing up on my arms and my neck. I remember thinking that, ‘This is what I was born to do.’”
Today, Boyd is an accomplished flamenco guitarist writing original compositions that come to life when he and his performance group Flamenco Pacifico play together — a powerful and enriching experience Sandpoint will get the chance to experience when Flamenco Pacifico plays the Heartwood Center on Sunday, Nov. 3 at 7 p.m.
“Berto incorporates elements of traditional and modern flamenco,” said Flamenco Pacifico guitarist and vocalist Grant Ruiz, “along with elements of other music like rock, jazz and samba.”
In Flamenco Pacifico, Boyd is joined by Ruiz, percussionist Terry Longshore and bassist Randy Tico. However, the group’s performances would lose color without emotive and passionate physical interpretations from Elena Villa and Melissa Cruz, both classically trained and well-traveled flamenco dancers who complete the Oregon-based six-piece. Together, Flamenco Pacifico is known for interactive and educational performances.
“We like to provide background on the pieces that we do, so that the audience gains some insight into the cultural context of Spanish flamenco,” Ruiz said, noting that oftentimes audience members thank them for the extra information, saying that it enhanced their experience.
“This is also very gratifying to us as performers because it helps us connect to our audiences,” he added.
Flamenco Pacifico is coming to Sandpoint as part of the Pend Oreille Arts Council’s 2019-2020 Performance Series, filling a vital role in the series as the annual world music installment.
“We find that it’s a really important part of what we do — to bring in shows that people wouldn’t have a chance to see otherwise in Sandpoint,” said POAC Director Hannah Combs. “World music is sort of our wheelhouse at POAC. It’s something that a lot of the other [local arts] presenters don’t do much of.”
In past years, POAC has invited performers of traditional African, Japanese and Ukranian art forms to take part in the annual performance series. Flamenco Pacifico is a perfect fit for POAC’s mission, which aims to help local artists and students alike connect with performers from a variety of backgrounds.
“It’s a really cool message, especially to our students — somebody was exposed to this music, fell in love and used all his energy to pursue it,” Combs said, referring to Boyd’s journey to performing flamenco music. “It’s an inspiring story and a great example of a creative collaboration.”
Flamenco Pacifico • Sunday, Nov. 3; 7 p.m.; $15 for adults, $10 for youth. The Heartwood Center, 615 Oak St. Contact Pend Oreille Arts Council at 208-263-6139. Listen at flamencopacifico.com.
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